The Syrian army has now deployed near the Turkish border. This came hours after Kurdish-led defence forces in northern Syria (aka Rojava) said they had reached a deal with Damascus to help them resist Turkey’s illegal invasion.
A “military” deal to defeat Turkish-led invaders
On Monday morning, Syria’s state news agency said that the army had moved into the town of Tal Tamr, which is about 12 miles from the Turkish border. Tal Tamr is a predominantly Assyrian Christian town that was once held by Daesh (Isis/Isil) before Kurdish-led forces liberated it. Many Syrian Christians, who make up about 10% of Syria’s pre-war population of 23 million, left for Europe over the past 20 years, with the flight gathering speed since the country’s conflict began in March 2011.
Political talks between Rojava and Damascus have long been on the table but there has so far been no agreement. And according to the Rojava Information Center, the current deal is “on a military basis” rather than a political one:
We have spoken to two diplomatic officials with knowledge of negotiations, they said:
Read on...Support us and go ad-free
– Negotiations so far between SDF and regime on a military basis, not with Autonomous Administration
– Autonomous Administration would continue with negotiations for a political settlement pic.twitter.com/0uv8QDJORl
— Rojava Information Center (@RojavaIC) October 14, 2019
It also said the autonomous administration in Rojava had “requested Americans to leave to clear the way for Russians to control airspace” in order to “remove Turkish-backed forces”. However, it clarified that “much of the detail of the agreement – particularly on the civil and political side – remains unclear”.
Pragmatism for survival
Rojava has forged a green democratic revolution in the middle of Syria’s brutal war. Its system is feminist, socialist, and opposes all religious and ethnic discrimination. And both militarily and ideologically, it played a key role in defeating Daesh in Syria. Over 11,000 Rojavan fighters died in this war.
In late 2014, Daesh besieged the blockaded Rojavan city of Kobanî as Turkey watched from across the border. But the city’s local defence forces resisted for much longer than anyone expected, eventually defeating Daesh. And this got the world’s attention. Amid almost total destruction in Kobanî, for example, the US finally decided to give strategic support to these forces in their fight against Daesh, after isolating them for years. There was no meaningful political commitment, but there was a temporary military alliance to defeat Daesh. While some criticised Rojava for accepting this support, Daesh would almost certainly have taken control of Kobanî and other areas, leaving death and destruction in their wake. In short, it was a pragmatic survival tactic.
Under Donald Trump, however, that pragmatic connection has ended. And while the Syrian government (like the US) has blood on its hands, a deal with Damascus now seems to be the only realistic option Rojava has for survival.
A new pragmatism
In the decades before Syria’s current war, the Assad dynasty had improved health indicators (its healthcare system was reportedly “the envy of the Middle East”). It also displayed consistent support for Palestinians against Israeli occupation, while receiving praise for its secularism. But its Ba’ath regime was always authoritarian, repressive, and corrupt. And it increasingly took a neoliberal path in the 21st century – cutting public spending and allowing increased privatisation. These ‘reforms’ contributed to decreasing living standards and growing public anger.
The absence of citizenship rights for the country’s Kurdish population, meanwhile, left 300,000 to 500,000 people stateless for decades. The Kurdish language was also prohibited under the Ba’ath party; and an Arabisation policy saw Arab settlers arrive in Kurdish communities and town names changed. Bashar al-Assad only took measures to address these issues after the start of the 2011 protests against his rule.
In Syria’s ongoing war, hundreds of thousands of civilians have reportedly died; and different groups recording the statistics agree that the Syrian government is responsible for most of these deaths.
But as in 2014, Rojava faces a simple choice; it can either deal with Assad’s government, or face death and destruction at the hands of NATO’s second-largest army.
Featured image and additional content via Press Association
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?