Tuesday, 17 July 2012, 08:55 GMT
Pragmatic or Strategic Unity: A model should be developed

Kurdish President Massoud Barzani attends the Congres of the Syrian Kurdish Dispora in Erbil, January 28, 2012./GLOBE PHOTO/Safin Hamid

Globe Editorial
By Azad Amin

For so long these two perspectives managed to occupy Kurdish politics and the line between them could not be clearly demarcated.

The unity of the two main Syrian Kurdistan political groups, the Kurdish National Council of Syria and the People's Council of Western Kurdistan, in the capital city of Kurdistan region of Iraq was a critical and much needed development for the success of the Kurdish national movement in Syria at such a critical period of time.

The unity agreement of the Syrian Kurds, however, needs to be critically examined as there are number of factors and approaches that have the potential to deteriorate or diminish the significance of this agreement.

Not necessarily solely related to the Syrian Kurdistan, there are two main approaches surrounding the Kurdish national question and the path towards its solution. These two approaches can be broadly divided under two categories: national politics and minority politics.

For so long these two perspectives managed to occupy Kurdish politics and the line between them could not be clearly demarcated. As has been highlighted several times on this editorial page of the Globe, a definition of national and minority politics is categorically imperative.

National politics refers to the Kurdish question as a political-national question and seeks its solution within the paradigm of national self-determination. In other words national politics aims to resolve the Kurdish national question by appropriating the property rights of Kurdistan territory and its natural resources and put them under the control of Kurdish nation. Sovereign rights of the Kurdish people on Kurdistan territory is the main objective of national politics.

Minority politics on the other hand refers to the Kurdish question as a minority issue and seeks its resolution within the paradigm of democracy and human rights perspective within the existing political borders. Thus the focus of attention of minority politics lies not within Kurdistan but at the political centers of Ankara, Tehran, Baghdad and Damascus. Of course such broad division of these tendencies in practice has not always been expressed so clearly and there have always been variations and diversions.

Today in Kurdistan, the representatives of these two tendencies can be observed in broad sense. While Kurdistan Workers Party known as PKK is the leading political force of minority politics, the Kurdistan Democratic Party in Kurdistan Region is the leading political power of national politics.

Perspective towards to the Kurdish national question in Syria since the beginning of the regime crisis within these national and minority paradigms can also be observed. The People's Council led by PYD, an affiliated organization of PKK, initially pursued a pro-regime policy and outlined its policy as democratic autonomy, a concept that is highly ambiguous and does not provide sovereign rights to Kurdish nation. The Syrian Kurdish National Council on the other hand followed an anti-regime policy and outlined its policy initially as federalism and self-determination, though they also set back from their demand of federalism.

Now that the two main groups under the leadership of Kurdistan President, Massoud Barzani, united their ranks and aimed to create a singular Kurdish representation in Syria, the question that remains to be answered is what politics they are able to pursue in their path towards a common policy and strategy'

Unity of Kurdish ranks is indeed essential in order to pursue Kurdish national interests in Syria as the regime is going under a serious crisis. However, equally crucial is on what strategy and policy that this unity is based on.

Political development in Syria and the method that the regime pursues, indicate that preservation of Syrian integrity and unity in post-Assad era is not possible. Rather than a regime change, Syria is fast moving towards a kind of dismantlement and division along various small political entities.

Franck Salameh in National Interest put this very acutely: "When it comes to Syria, the earth is flat no more and its current shape makes no sense to an empowered group unwilling to return to servility. It is high time prevalent images of Syria and its future as a cultural and ethnic monolith moved away from this cognitive dissonance. This is not a prescription. It is a gentle reminder that a model for the future can be found in Syria's Ottoman and French-Mandatory past, and that a single, unitary Syria locked up in its current map is neither sacrosanct nor a law of nature. It is a historical anomaly that arose in 1936, a date prior to which, politically and geographically speaking, Syria as we know it today did not exist. Given these realities, diplomats and those invested in Syria and its people's well-being should explore all possible solutions to the current crisis not only those dictated by dominant paradigms and comforting ideological predilections."

Indeed the general discourse on Syria's unity and national integrity are the least of the regime's obsessions. As a last resort, the regime would seek its survival as part of an Alawite state as the Alawites would not abdicate their reign and resign themselves to a subservient future in Syria under the dominancy of Sunni Muslims. As Salameh put it "the Alawites would rather dismantle their existing republic and retreat into fortifications in the mountains than share power with a Sunni-Arab majority ill-prepared to grant either democracy or clemency to its erstwhile wardens."

Syrian Kurds, and in fact the entire Kurdish political groups throughout Kurdistan, should concentrate on Syria and prepare themselves for an uncertain political period in Syria. Should Syria become dismembered and an Alawite state established, then the only course that the Kurds should follow is an independent Kurdish political entity.

The Arab nationalist vision of Sunni Muslims in Syria, mostly represented by the Syrian National Council, has already shown their true vision regarding to the Kurdish national question. This indicates that there would not be any possibility for the Kurds to create a united Syrian state with Sunni Arabs in Syria. This leaves only one path to pursue, that of Independence.

Such political uncertainties require the Kurdish political actors to prepare themselves for any eventuality. To do this it is categorically imperative to create a coherent and strategic national policy as the foundation of Kurdish national unity. The unity of Syrian Kurds unfortunately is not based on national strategic objectives. Despite the fact that this unity is a significant move, nonetheless, the lack of a strategic policy as a national guide is a serious handicap and has to be overcome.

Today more than ever a necessity arises for the Kurds to develop a coherent and national strategic policy as the guiding principles to pursuing Kurdish national interests in the region. The guiding principles should be based on national politics, in other words, national-sovereign rights of the Kurdish nation in possession of property rights of Kurdistan territory.

This strategic goal should not be limited to the Syrian Kurds but it must be the main driving principle of the entire Kurdish national movement. The political development in the region that relates to the Kurds neither ends or is limited to Syria as the entire region of the Middle East is undergoing restructuring, and the Kurds should not miss this vital opportunity and take their place as a sovereign nation that is the master of its own destiny.

With the historical opportunities that presented itself in southern Kurdistan and the political development that followed there since 1991, the Kurds in that part of Kurdistan proved that they are a nation for itself and this trend should be followed in other parts of Kurdistan. Syrian Kurdistan is now the new testing ground to prove itself.