The Time for Kurdistan Region of Syria Has Come

July 23, 2012

The Kurdistan Region of Syria? Yes, it is possible. Now is the time to decalre it.

Today, the Kurds of Syria are in a position to be a strong player in the new Syria and the Middle East. But this depends a great deal on their Kurdish neighbors and co-fighters – namely, the KDP and PKK.

The events of the past week have opened up a new horizon for the Kurds in the Middle East in general and the Kurds of Syria in particular. The liberation of the Kurdish cities of Syria presents a new kind of challenge for the Kurds of Syria.

At times like these, creative thinking could change the course of history and secure a better future. Given the developments in the other parts of Syria and the conflict between the Assad regime and the opposition, the leadership of Syrian Kurds could steer things in a different direction.

Although the conflict is now between the regime’s army and the free Syrian army, it will eventually take the shape of a Sunni-Alawite conflict that could resemble the Sunni-Shia conflict of Iraq. In such a scenario, the Kurds would become secondary to both the Sunnis and Alawites of Syria and could use this status to maximize the security of their position.

The committee that is supposed to run the affairs of the Kurdish region, to be announced in Erbil, should first of all unilaterally announce the creation of the Kurdistan Region of Syria. They should start behaving as an independent region and organize their affairs accordingly.

This would serve two purposes. It would guarantee them a clear position once the Assad regime falls, and their participation – and its cost — in the political process of Damascus would be clear.

Given the Alawite fears of Sunni rule of the country, Assad could see a benefit in recognizing the Kurdish region as a step to transition Syria into a federal state. This is a fallback option for the Alawites, who are also a minority and have an older generation with many horror stories of “Sunni oppression.” Federalism in Syria could be a way to avert retribution against the Alawites by establishing three regions — an Alawite, a Sunni and a Kurdish region.

The other benefit of creating a Kurdish region now would be to give the Kurds a strong footing when it comes to negotiating a vision and constitution for the new Syria.

In Iraq, almost all non-Kurds have difficulty understanding that the country is a “voluntary union” of its people. Without a Kurdish region, it would be difficult to say that Kurds were equal partners and they have a lot to lose by being in Syria.

But the key to such a scenario is internal Kurdish unity. The Erbil agreement should be respected and an agreement between the KDP and PKK should be reached over the future of the Kurdish regions of Syria. The other important player in this is Turkey, who seems to be quiet given the initial hints over the past few days.

At times of uncertainty, those who create realities on the ground are the safest. Now is the time for the Kurds of Syria to create the reality of their federal region on the ground.

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