After the dead-end ref­er­en­dum in Ira­ki Kur­dis­tan, start­ing anoth­er col­umn on geopoli­cal news from Irak and Syr­ia as “an atten­tive observ­er” would amount to noth­ing but a com­pi­la­tion of news pub­lished else­where, if those “news” did not add weight to the Kur­dish ques­tion con­sid­ered as a pos­si­ble way out. A demo­c­ra­t­ic way out, as opposed to the nation­al­is­tic and impe­ri­al­is­tic inter­ests of a region com­pro­mised by war.

The head­lines will talk about Raqqa for a moment, raise the ques­tion of the “end” of ISIS, the TV stu­dios will prob­a­bly talk of a “strike” against “ter­ror­ism” , until the next crazy pulls out a knife. Don’t expect exam­i­na­tion of what is tru­ly at play in the com­ing weeks in the Mid­dle East. For years now, this issue has been exam­ined by the vast major­i­ty of Euro­pean com­men­ta­tors sole­ly from the instru­men­tal­ized angle of “Islam­ic ter­ror­ism” and the war refugee pho­bia that comes with it.

Raqqa, ex ISIS fief­dom, is lib­er­at­ed from bar­bar­i­ty. The Syr­i­an Demo­c­ra­t­ic Forces now con­trol the town and, in prin­ci­ple, a pro­vi­sion­al admin­is­tra­tion should be hand­ed over to the sur­viv­ing inhab­i­tants from the zone. Giv­en the huge divi­sions cre­at­ed in the pop­u­la­tions by the ISIS trau­ma, and the destruc­tions caused in the recap­ture, the task will be a long one.

With min­i­mal involve­ment on the ground — restrict­ed to spe­cial forces or advi­sors guid­ing the air strikes – with its logis­ti­cal aid and weapons, said “coali­tion” can express sat­is­fac­tion, and will prob­a­bly claim the mil­i­tary vic­to­ry against the Islam­ic State, after let­ting Irak cel­e­brate in Bag­dad over that of Mosul.

We know the recap­ture of Mossul result­ed in a car­nage that was dif­fi­cult to hide. In the case of Raqqa, com­bat­ants suf­fered heavy loss­es in their ranks since the launch of the offen­sive, already a year ago, and many count fall­en friends among those losses.

While ISIS still hods scat­tered ter­ri­to­ries and seeks “its refuge in the desert”, one could hope nonethe­less for a bright spell — if one can speak in those terms in wartime. The demo­c­ra­t­ic forces, and the Kurds in their midst, could hope to “final­ly” cel­e­brate this victory.

But these lib­er­a­tions, of Mossul and Raqqa, only sig­nal the onset of cir­cum­stan­tial alliances among those who want their future share of the Mid­dle-East­ern pie. The poten­tial table arrange­ment upcom­ing in Gene­va (or else­where) will include arm­chairs, chairs, fold-out seats — and some will be left standing.

And while count­ing the chick­ens pri­or to the full defeat of ISIS is pure illu­sion at this point — its very exis­tence being direct­ly linked to the deep­en­ing crises of the nation-states — the mil­i­tary “skir­mish­es”, “ges­tic­u­la­tions” or prepa­ra­tions for real offen­sives already fore­shad­ow these alliances.

With Russia’s tac­it agree­ment, an axis of alliance has devel­oped between Iran — manip­u­lat­ing the gov­ern­ment in Bag­dad and arm­ing the Shi­ite mili­tias present in Irak (Hashd al-Chaabi) — and Turkey, recent­ly rec­on­ciled with Teheran over the Kur­dish inde­pen­dence referendum.

Bachar’s Syr­i­an regime can only be in ambush. Thus is the geo-polit­i­cal pro­file tak­ing shape using as its excuse the inde­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum, even though it gives no evi­dence of lead­ing to con­crete results. On the day fol­low­ing the results, Barzani, its ini­tia­tor, explained the process would be a long one rquir­ing negotiation.

The Turk­ish gov­ern­ment then announced that prepa­ra­tions for an inter­ven­tion toward Afrîn were well advanced, (Afrîn being one of the Syr­i­an can­tons of the North­ern Syr­i­an Fed­er­a­tion, and thus opposed to the Syr­i­an Demo­c­ra­t­ic Forces (SDF) and the YPG/YP – Peo­ples’ Pro­tec­tion Unit­sJ. This Turk­ish offen­sive only await­ing favor­able cir­cum­stances for the green sig­nal. At the same time, while Russ­ian kept silent, this same Turk­ish gov­ern­ment rein­forced its posi­tions in the “de-esca­la­tion zones”, fol­low­ing the already ancient offen­sive via Jer­ablus. Attacks on vil­lages and bomb­ings are now frequent.

Since the end of August, it is not unusu­al for the Turk­ish army to launch intim­i­da­tion bomb­ings, and oth­ers with more mur­der­ous con­se­quences, against the cen­ter of Efrîn.

Tak­ing into account the man­ner in which the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment has con­sol­i­dat­ed the Bachar regime and giv­en its army full room for maneu­vers via Alep and com­mu­ni­ca­tions toward the North while await­ing the “set­tling” of the fix­a­tion point in Idlib, every­thing points to more than pres­sures being exert­ed against the North­ern Syr­ia Fed­er­a­tion (includ­ing Rojava).


How­ev­er, the recent deploy­ment of the Turk­ish army in this so-called “rebel” province of Idlib in north-west­ern Syr­ia where the Turks were greet­ed as sav­iors, was not to the taste of Bachar, who “demand­ed an imme­di­ate retreat of those forces”. Bachar, for instance, recent­ly sent his planes to bomb a mar­ket in Idlib, caus­ing 11 civil­ian deaths. Yet we know that the tar­gets of the Turk­ish deploy­ments are not the Syr­i­an regime’s forces and that the aim is estab­lish­ing a rear base and alliances against the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Forces.

Open­ing up a mil­i­tary front allows the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment to gain a seat at the future table. Also, by pro­vok­ing a nec­es­sary reac­tion of self-defense in the pop­u­la­tions of those zones, it forces the FDS forces to stay in the area, from which they would have cleared out after Raqqa .

From Erdoğan’s point of view, this geopo­lit­i­cal gam­bit and mil­i­tary strat­e­gy game allow for a per­ma­nent weak­en­ing of the Kur­dish cause and the destruc­tion of the nascent con­fed­er­al­ism in North­ern Syr­ia — a dreamed-of oppor­tu­ni­ty he has want­ed for years, espe­cial­ly since it plays out with the total agree­ment of the larg­er sce­nario in Irak.


Indeed, the town of Kirkuk and the region of Sin­jar were aban­doned to the Hashd al-Chaabi mili­tias almost with­out a sin­gle shot fire by the Pesh­mer­gas loy­al to Barzani, fol­low­ing an offen­sive announced by the cen­tral Ira­ki gov­ern­ment. Every­thing points to Barzani seek­ing an agree­ment with the Bag­dad gov­ern­ment for a return to the 2003 bor­ders. One of the largest towns in Irak, with its oil-rich sur­round­ings , would return to the Ira­ki fold, in exchange for an agree­ment the full details of which are not known – leav­ing defense­less pop­u­la­tions that are, on the main, opposed to Barzani.

Giv­en their bit­ter and atro­cious recent expe­ri­ences with ISIS, the Yazidis, along with oth­er refugees, includ­ing those of the Makhmur camp, are attempt­ing to resist with the People’s Pro­tec­tion Forces (HPG) and the forces of Sinjar’s Resis­tance Units (YBŞ).

This resis­tance against the Shi­ite mili­tias armed by Iran and the sup­ple­men­tary forces of the Ira­ki regime will prove dif­fi­cult, giv­en that a large pro­por­tion of the pop­u­la­tions are flee­ing toward autonomous Kur­dis­tan, now retrenched in its for­mer territories.

Thus, the non nation­al­is­tic Kur­dish forces and their allies are left fac­ing a regime that, less than a month ago, sought alliances “against the ref­er­en­dum” in every corner.

These alliances are now in place to begin “liq­ui­dat­ing” the Kur­dish demo­c­ra­t­ic oppo­si­tion, and of course the move­ment around the PKK, should they enter into resis­tance, in place of the Barzani regime slip­ping away from the fight.

In this huge three-way bil­liard game, iden­ti­fy­ing the hits, their authors and insti­ga­tors becomes dif­fi­cult , where­as they were pre­dictable when Barzani announced the referendum.

Kur­dish uni­ty, called for by the PKK more than ever, along with sur­round­ing move­ments and par­ties sur­round­ing it, seems more than ever on the wane as open threats of war resurface.

Every set­tling of scores becomes pos­si­ble, under the super­vi­sion of region­al pow­ers. The con­flict could become an open one. Let us hope it is noth­ing but a game of pres­sures, threats, local con­flicts – arms diplo­ma­cy. The huge major­i­ty of the par­ties agree that bat­tle for the miss­ing chairs around the nego­ti­a­tion table, will undoubt­ed­ly take place on the back of Kur­dish con­fed­er­al­ism and of its polit­i­cal pro­pos­als com­ing after the nation-state cri­sis in the Middle-East.

In this game, the great Amer­i­can Satan keeps an eye on the price of the bar­rel of crude oil.

Trans­la­tion by Renée Lucie Bourges

En français : “Les alliances de cir­con­stance con­tre les Kur­des” Cliquez pour lire

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Let­tres mod­ernes à l’Université de Tours. Gros mots poli­tiques… Coups d’oeil politiques…