With all par­tic­i­pants in the Syr­i­an fools’ game com­pet­ing for the Judas title, Putin has dealt the card for his own victory.

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Fol­low­ing on four rounds of nego­ti­a­tions with Iran and Turkey, Rus­sia has kept unflinch­ing­ly to the spir­it it set out in May 2017 in Astana. That process set down con­trol of the pow­er plays between the armed forces on the ground, and the de fac­to shut­ting out of the “coali­tion” inca­pable of pro­pos­als or even of the will to pro­pose any­thing. In this sense, Turkey’s pres­ence in the process along with its undis­put­ed par­tic­i­pa­tion in the NATO alliance, was con­sid­ered as sig­ni­fy­ing the acqui­es­cence of its oth­er mem­bers. One should not for­get that , in 2016, the UN’s Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil had also applaud­ed the Turko-Russ­ian agree­ment that served as a pre­lude to Astana. Some of Europe’s Left-wingers also applauded.

Also in 2017, Euro­pean coun­tries wish­ing to end their mil­i­tary engage­ment against ISIS – one that had led to the sac­ri­fice of close to 11 000 Kur­dish fight­ers – began after Raqqa, then in the last fights in March 2019, to mud­dle through the impos­si­ble repa­tri­a­tion of their Jihadist nation­als and their fam­i­lies. All of them were at odds with their pub­lic opin­ions. In this con­text, the announce­ment of the Amer­i­can with­draw­al, almost a year ago, was inter­pret­ed as meant for domes­tic consumption.

In fact, it had already weighed as a threat over the Roja­va project and had forced the demo­c­ra­t­ic author­i­ties in Roja­va to open nego­ti­a­tions with the Syr­i­an regime, some­thing Russ­ian diplo­ma­cy had been urg­ing for over three years. Those “nego­ti­a­tions” already showed the mark of being held under constraint.

A few months ago, short­ly before the announce­ment of a firm with­draw­al of Amer­i­can forces, the deci­sion to hold a UN spon­sored com­mis­sion respon­si­ble for con­duct­ing talks around a new Syr­i­an con­sti­tu­tion, was also a result of active Russ­ian diplo­ma­cy. Need we remind the read­er that the FDS and oth­er Roja­va rep­re­sen­ta­tives were exclud­ed from this commission.

When men­tion­ing Russ­ian diplo­ma­cy, we must nev­er for­get that it rests on a strong mil­i­tary pres­ence in Syr­ia, sup­port­ing the regime, even if Russ­ian forces were “whit­tled down” begin­ning of 2019.

The Astana agree­ment also pro­vid­ed for Russ­ian con­trol of the sky in the “de-esca­la­tion” zones cov­ered in the process. Let’s be clear about this right away, this meant sole autho­rized flights by Rus­sia, and thus, con­trol of the reduc­tion of the pock­ets of resis­tance to the regime, up until the final one, Idlib. Turkey was put in charge of con­trol­ling the Jihadist groups and this led to the sit­u­a­tion we know now, which is to say a recy­cling of the mer­ce­nar­ies and gangs to its advan­tage, and pompous­ly renam­ing them “Nation­al Syr­i­an Army”. Rus­sia did not stop the recap­ture of Afrin by Turkey, a Kur­dish ter­ri­to­ry in Syr­ia in which Turkey had already shel­tered these same Jihadist groups at the start of 2018.

A fool’s game has been in place since 2016, one in which Putin’s Rus­sia pulls the strings to its own advan­tage and that of the Syr­i­an regime, with back­ground sup­port from Iran. Stat­ing this is the same as barg­ing through an open door. But giv­en the polit­i­cal fas­ci­na­tion Putin some­times sets off in the most unex­pect­ed cor­ners, it is worth repeat­ing. Trump did noth­ing to counter these betray­als, adding his own to the lot and pre­cip­i­tat­ing mat­ters by giv­ing the green light to what was already being con­coct­ed in the back rooms since the mil­i­tary end of ISIS.

No mat­ter how pre­oc­cu­pied by its own pub­lic opin­ions, arms sales and inter­na­tion­al imbroglios pro­voked by Trump on all top­ics, not a sin­gle West­ern chan­cellery can say it did not see this com­ing. These same chan­cel­leries knew per­fect­ly well that the uni­lat­er­al­ism ini­ti­at­ed by the Amer­i­can Pres­i­dent, and the diplo­ma­cy of coun­ter­forces of a Putin would lead to cat­a­stroph­ic con­se­quences on the war scene in Syr­ia. The hyp­o­crit­i­cal stance of main­tain­ing the PKK on the list of ter­ror­ists while meet­ing with its mem­bers in an oppor­tunis­tic way, was also at its own lev­el, a sig­nal of the ongo­ing betray­als occur­ing under Putin’s tri­umphant gaze.

For all that, one can­not con­sid­er that this con­sti­tutes a vic­to­ry for the Bachar regime. Which nev­er signed the Astana agree­ments while har­vest­ing its fruits. The Russ­ian geostrate­gi­cal pres­ence in the Mid­dle-East vast­ly tran­scends the ques­tion of Bachar. Sim­ply men­tion­ing the word “gas” would lead to writ­ing a whole chap­ter on the rela­tion­ships between a Russ­ian pres­ence in Syr­ia, Euro­pean sup­plies of same, and Turkey. The sale of S400 is peanuts in comparison.

There is a telling anec­dote, con­firmed by a few video excerpts, on the meet­ing between Putin and Erdoğan. As the lat­ter pulled out his fetichized map on the buffer zones in Syr­ia, he was invit­ed to put it away in front of the cameras…Without giv­ing too much weight to this anec­dote, it does pro­vide grist for the mill con­cern­ing longer term ulte­ri­or motives.

Putin used Erdoğan just as he is using the cur­rent regime in Syr­ia. His aims will nev­er include allow­ing an increase in the pow­er of the one or the oth­er. A peace under Putin is a peace imposed by mil­i­tary troops on the ground, his own and those of the regime. And the next unfold­ing of events will demon­strate that the Jihadist pres­ence in Syr­ia, be it in Idlib – the cur­rent Afrin – will be a sup­ple­men­tary step in the war in 2020 where Turkey will be forced to aban­don its pre­ten­tions at sup­port­ing the beard­ed ones it is using for the time being. As a trade-off, the Roja­va project will prob­a­bly be dis­man­tled under occu­pa­tion by the Syr­i­an army except if, Putin here again decides to use their pres­ence against the Jihadist threat, still present.

The deci­sion tak­en yes­ter­day by the FDS to resist and to refuse the points of agree­ment between Erdoğan and Putin will be dif­fi­cult to main­tain polit­i­cal­ly, espe­cial­ly since regime forces are being sent under Russ­ian pro­tec­tion toward North­ern Syr­ia and the bat­tle to con­quer ter­ri­to­ry with­in the 30 km zone is ongo­ing by the Turk­ish forces, with more vic­tims and dis­placed per­sons, exac­tions and averred war crimes. As demon­strat­ed by the strong sym­bol of Serêkaniyê, this resis­tance shows, if there was still need to do so, that even if the polit­i­cal project in Roja­va does not emerge unscathed from these past weeks and the ones to come, it has imprint­ed in the pop­u­la­tions, the actors of the Roja­va process and women in par­tic­u­lar, a will to main­tain the demo­c­ra­t­ic acqui­si­tions and the val­ues of com­mu­nal liv­ing. No mat­ter what the human­i­tar­i­an cri­sis may be as a con­se­quence of the war, the mem­o­ry of how this ter­ri­to­ry knew peace in a ocean of con­flicts will live on and feed the resistance.

When the one charged by all with deal­ing the cards uses his own tricked pack, in the name of peace around the table, the los­er is the one who does not cheat.

This fourth arti­cle clos­es an attempt to clar­i­fy the roles played by var­i­ous inter­na­tion­al actors. This exer­cise is not inspired by a wish to play the “spe­cial­ist”. There are enough of those spread­ing out these days across the news chan­nels, each one with a “book” to ped­dle or an Ego to rein­force. I am not back from Raqqa where I would sup­pos­ed­ly “have fought with the pesh­mer­gas” (sic). Nor does Kedis­tan have a sec­u­lar Hol­ly­wood-type film to promote.

I owe to our friends the inter­na­tion­al­ist fight­ers this attempt to share more wide­ly what I have under­stood myself of the Syr­i­an muck-up, mod­est­ly and from where I hap­pen to be. In order to go as far as the facts allow, in the hope that their inter­na­tion­al­ist strug­gle will not be dragged through the mud and “lit­i­gat­ed” by the States.

Defend­ing Roja­va today, demon­strat­ing with plac­ards read­ing “Erdoğan mur­der­er”, denounc­ing war crimes are not sim­ply activist or human­ist duties, even if the “filmed” war crimes make you want to vomit.

What is occur­ring his­tor­i­cal­ly in Roja­va, at a time when the world is ris­ing up in flames against cap­i­tal­ist lib­er­al­ism and the plan­et burns under its depre­da­tions, is an attempt to crush a demo­c­ra­t­ic solu­tion – always open to crit­i­cism but oh so use­ful for all of human­i­ty, just as was that of a cer­tain Span­ish rev­o­lu­tion crushed in 1936.

To speak in the most con­crete of terms, I can only encour­age those who denounce war crimes unceas­ing­ly and who answer the urgent calls from the pop­u­la­tions. If this col­umn served no oth­er pur­pose, it would have proven useful.

#1 In Syria, each of the killers shows his hand against Rojava
#2 Erdoğan the bigot plays his card: Dream maker for the nationalists
#3 The Trump Card • Five days to finish off a treason

Translation by Renée Lucie Bourges
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Daniel Fleury
Let­tres mod­ernes à l’Université de Tours. Gros mots poli­tiques… Coups d’oeil politiques…