Moscow’s Phantoms of the Soviet Era — old friends, old state relationships, Kurdish political incoherence at the leadership level, and confusion over the idea of liberalism has produced a deadly and medieval quagmire in Northern Syria and opened the gate to thoroughly retrograde politics — thank the Turkish “sultan” Erdogan the (most-un-NATO-like) Egoist. In effect, America’s — and the west’s — chief allies in the fight against Islamic State in Syria have been betrayed to the extent that the west now looks on at their deprivation.
If integrity is to be an international standard, it is important to grasp how artificial and brutal an enterprise has been Bashar al-Assad’s civil war and “war on terrorism”. As BackChannels has commented on Assad’s nurturing of al-Qaeda types early in the Syrian Tragedy, it will list here just a sampling of posts asserting that the state’s theater of war has been developed and managed for totalitarian effects — “Syria – Assad – ISIL – Background (December 9, 2016). The “Kurdistan” and “Syria” categories of this blog contain other listings, of course, and here for convenience are a few quickly chosen URLs to posts that may be helpful to Kurdish political analysts asking the eternal political question: “Where from here”?
https://conflict-backchannels.com/2019/01/02/moscow-as-medusa-with-all-the-snakes-attached/ |https://conflict-backchannels.com/2019/10/23/a-precarious-kurdistan/ | https://conflict-backchannels.com/2019/10/22/the-devolution-will-be-televised-kurdistan-end-of-ceasefire/ |
Yesterday, ASHARQ published “Syria Kurds Urge Moscow to Return Damascus to Constitutional Committee” (January 1, 2020) with naivete perhaps regarding Russia’s own deeply paternal authoritarian political habits and long-term rejection, so far, of constitutional power. In the days of the Tsar, the peasants found suggested arrangements for “constitutional monarchy” suspect 🙂 , never mind the monarch; the Bolsheviks appear to have produced power for the leadership (incidentally, Stalin himself had a turn in the Tsar’s secret political police, the Okhrana) and death and imprisonment for Russians, among others, by the millions; and, finally, KGB Colonel Putin has come to rule Russia with again despotic controls and with “liberalism” virtually removed from the discourse of the powerful who appear to prefer plunder (ask Khodorkovsky) to responsible political stewardship.
Suggestion for those now arguing about the character of a Syrian Constitution for which the troika of Assad, Putin, and Khamenei have no need as well as the character of a proposed Kurdish agreement between communities: err toward the compassion, complexity, and integrating liberal humanism owned by the rapidly evolving and modernizing west — take cues from the west’s most advanced (and happiest) states, not the ones sinking backward into feudal and nationalist fascism.
Start, perhaps, with Finland, so that what is to end does so where it began.
Dawisha, Karen. Putin’s Kleptocracy: Who Owns Russia. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2015. Stated on the Amazon page:
The raging question in the world today is who is the real Vladimir Putin and what are his intentions. Karen Dawisha’s brilliant Putin’s Kleptocracy provides an answer, describing how Putin got to power, the cabal he brought with him, the billions they have looted, and his plan to restore the Greater Russia.
Russian scholar Dawisha describes and exposes the origins of Putin’s kleptocratic regime. She presents extensive new evidence about the Putin circle’s use of public positions for personal gain even before Putin became president in 2000. She documents the establishment of Bank Rossiya, now sanctioned by the US; the rise of the Ozero cooperative, founded by Putin and others who are now subject to visa bans and asset freezes; the links between Putin, Petromed, and “Putin’s Palace” near Sochi; and the role of security officials from Putin’s KGB days in Leningrad and Dresden, many of whom have maintained their contacts with Russian organized crime.
Kurdish leaders should take note of Russia’s early and Imperial history and the character of the state under Putin’s sway, and they should ask whether the same is today authentically interested in their health and well being.
BackChannels knows the historic response: “No friends but the mountains.”
This blog’s editor hopes that the time-honored expression of abandonment and isolation is either no longer true today or that it becomes untrue as EU/NATO and perhaps others take interest themselves in Kurdish aspirations, bravery, hopes, and ideals for a greater and more just and more autonomous state.
Inspirational comment for what follows noted that “the #1 and #2 ISIS leaders” were now dead.
True and factored into the response that follows here.
From the Awesome Conversation
Islamist leaders believe themselves — and their followers believe them to be — as Muhammad, the channeled voice of God on Earth. Of rivals for Ayatollah and Caliph there may be no short lists to which another strident Believer may not be added.
As with other dictators, their power resides in part in the closed political systems one or another may be able to wrap around themselves as a defensive as defensive political political, religious, and social bubble. In my reductive way, as much responds in leaders to the humiliations of childhood or early adolescence as part of malign narcissistic development. All become politically absolute — and for practical conclusions, kleptocratic.
In the Syrian theater, Bashar al-Assad cultivated ISIS / ISIL / Islamic State in the gathering of the al-Qaeda types that streamed into his state as the 2011 “Civil War” (I call it the “Syrian Tragedy”) developed. His purpose, and well in the KGB style, was to produce a war he knew he could win by first choosing his enemy. So he bombed the hell out of noncombatant Syrians while failing (deliberately) to focus his forces on the Islamists until the same coalesced and he could add to them.
Russia removed her citizens early in this process, but it by no means abandoned its old client. On the other wing, Iran had its eye on Israel and plenty of nefarious conflict-encouraging and martial power of its own — it is no mistake or coincidence that the IRG and Hezbollah would come to the battle (as would Russian forces).
On this reading page, BackChannels has another piece — different author and publication — suggesting about the same thing. Our retreat has been a retreat before “political absolutism” or in the most undemocratic and illiberal support of it.
Addendum: Perpetuation of Threat
The bond between conflict and money may well make the world go around.
That may be fine as a part of our “human condition”.
Here, however, for the remaining and fully functioning liberal democracies of the 21st Century, the underlying argument that might be characterized — as I characterize it — as “Medieval (Absolute Power) v Modern (Democratic Distribution of Power)” involves the leveraging of the presence of unreasoning threat and “unassailable” leadership into the endless “wars of all against all”.
Is that what y’all want?
Putin-Assad-Khamenei, Putin-Erdogan: as much appears the world wanted. Their states are their personal ventures; their slogans the whips for their mobs; their ends: their own aggrandizement.
For the West that should be pushing back: mere containment of these old and evil forces, and the “containment” appears quite permeable for the methods now associated with Russia’s “Active Measures” and “Hybrid Warfare”.
The official presentations of peace have become surreal.
Most understand that with the repression of democracy, especially through the jailing of journalists and the shuttering of publications, Turkish President Tayyip Recep Erdogan has all but denounced democracy for a turn “east” toward dictatorship.
America’s President Trump has agreed to the program but with one difference, i.e., claiming credit for peace in the region. He has nonetheless praised the Turkish leader, essentially hollowing out the meaning of “NATO” and the related Western ideals, principles, and values that were to be defended before the “Phantoms of the Soviet”, i.e., the forces of feudalism and associated criminals, political criminals, and tyrants.
Turkish news channels ran a countdown clock at the top of their screens to let the country know when the ceasefire in northern Syria would end. Military and political commentators tried to outdo each other’s prognostications about what would come out of the meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in the city of Sochi. In the end, the presidents spent six hours discussing their path forward in northern Syria.https://www.dw.com/en/opinion-erdogan-wins-big-as-clock-ticks-for-syria-kurds/a-50955172 – 10/23/2019.
BackChannels expects the powerful mainstream media (Fake News!) to take note of the discrepancies illustrated here by juxtaposition.
It appears some wealthy — way “up there” in wealth born of thuggery — have in some states displaced democratic processes, evolving liberalism, rule of law and become powers unto themselves acting in their own feudal and wholly narcissistic and malign interests.
Kurdish Border With Turkey
Yesterday’s morning began with live videos of . . . nothing. “Live from Turkey-Syria border as ceasefire ends” said the Ruptly header. It turns out that while the phlegmatic American Congress had been inquiring about the changed state of affairs between Turkey and the West, Russia and Turkey together had been “taking care of” the Kurds . . . .
There may be a no-fly zone in force for the border of interest. The editor here has been listening to more testimony that watching “action” on the live cameras.
Posted to YouTube in 2015
Kurdish forces acting as American / western proxies fought and died ejecting Islamic State from Syria. Is the west now to do nothing for them?
Now, the whole rationale Trump put forward for the retreat — to get American troops out of the Mideast and “endless wars” — is in doubt.
Rather than leaving the region, the withdrawing troops will deploy in neighboring Iraq to fight the Islamic State group, which could get new life from the Syrian turmoil. Some U.S. forces are still in eastern Syria, helping Kurdish fighters protect oilfields. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Monday he was discussing keeping them there.
Trump surprised even his own military on the ground when he agreed to remove U.S. soldiers working with Kurdish-led forces near the border in an Oct. 6 phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Three days later, Turkey launched its offensive with heavy bombardment along the border.https://www.courthousenews.com/america-is-running-away-kurds-pelt-withdrawing-troops/ 10/22/2019
My general impression has been yours, i.e., PKK fighters accepted some “rebranding” to make their image palatable to the west in their fight for survival against Islamic State. However, here is what the web turned up in related (swift) research:
The PKK launched with Soviet guidance and support in the late 1970s. Wikipedia nailed it in these two sentences: “The PKK was founded in 1978 in the village of Fis (near Lice) by a group of Kurdish students led by Abdullah Öcalan and in 1979 it made its existence known to the public.The PKK’s ideology was originally a fusion of revolutionary socialism and Kurdish nationalism, seeking the foundation of an independent Communist state in the region, which was to be known as Kurdistan.”
The political tone of the community has been in the direction of “democratic confederalism” — inclusion and input have been part of what nascent “Kurdistan” promoted when it played up the Rojava Experiment.
From the New Internationalist —
“There is no doubt that theirs is a shared ideology, one that has been formulated by their joint leader, Abdullah Öcalan, now in his 21st year of incarceration in a Turkish prison. But the PYD’s organizing principle is democratic confederalism: a system of direct democracy, ecological sustainability and ethnic inclusivity, where women have veto powers on new legislation and share all institutional positions with men.”
Within the short time since forming Rojava’s democratic experiment, child marriage, forced marriage, dowry and polygamy were banned; honour killings, violence and discrimination against women were criminalized. It is the only part of Syria where sharia councils have been abolished and religion has been consigned to the private sphere.”https://newint.org/features/2019/10/11/assault-rojava
American moderates and progressives would recognize the development of a social democracy — not unlike what we in fact of evolved into, i.e., a modern place with modern laws and cares. That would seem what the Trump Administration has chosen to abandon with a few teary-eyed remarks about America’s soldiery and his (narcissistic paranoid) bent toward American isolationism (after the United States leading the development and defense of democracy in the world since the end of WWII).
Opposed by the PKK and part of the character of Kurdish political incoherence: the Kurdish Democratic Party —
“The KDP has been described as a tribal, feudalistic, and aristocratic party which is controlled by the Barzani tribe.”
Has North America and Europe the wish to return to systems in which feudal authority commits crimes and invents policy beyond the questioning of the ordinary citizen?
By leaving the field to Putin and Erdogan and being himself autocratic in character, President Trump has suggested an answer to that question.
Note: The author edits and improves on the first off-the-cuff remarks in related threaded conversation on the way to posting the same or very similar on this blog.
The great squawk raised against President Trump’s pull-out from Syria after the seemingly finished business of removing ISIS as an area-controlling power in the region may be assuaged by a few cogent and brief observations.
From the Awesome Conversation (on Facebook) —
- The Kurds have not been a unified political community.
- The PKK is another of the late 1970s-style “liberation” organizations set up by then Communist Moscow.
- The regional “balance of power” has included Russian-Turkish animus (for a long time), so a return to that geopolitical fault line may make some historic sense; however, the two former empires appear at present embraced over energy, warm with each the other’s politically absolute character, and cold to the liberal democracies and associated values of the west.
In the “Medieval v Modern” framework often mentioned on BackChannels, arrangements between Russia and Turkey suit the Forward-to-the-Past! ambitions of Presidents Putin and Erdogan (and perhaps Trump as well). Ah, well, the past from the present may seem both a bloodier but also more simple day, so that much more suited to the simple minded among leaders. Be that as it may, the PKK’s historic relationship with Moscow may now bring the Kurdish liberation element into renewed contact with the producers of the”KGB Theater” that brought the murderous Islamic State to their doorstep in the first place.
Putin’s Russia has proven itself a deeply destructive and inhumane force in Syria, one that has encouraged a tyrant to bomb and depopulate substantial portions of his own state, and one that has itself repeatedly bombed hospitals into ruin. Call it “Real Estate Acquisition and Development — Moscow Style”. May such a center of power as Moscow now find the Kurds and the PKK inconvenient?
As captive but perhaps (under the new circumstance) uncontainable ISIS elements melt back into the region (how many may it take to rebuild the movement or otherwise influence the politics of the region?), the perpetuation of conflict may seem to suit the greater “eastern” powers, one of which appears to enjoy the development and suspension of “frozen conflicts”.