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Can the KRG model be replicated in northern Syria?

By ROJ ELI ZALLA 7/12/2018
Earlier this week, US special representative for Syria Jim Jeffrey floated the idea of a no-fly zone for parts of Syria. He pointed to the success of the no-fly zone over northern Iraq established in the late 1990s that protected Kurdish areas from Saddam Hussein and ultimately contributed to the creation of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region. 

As war has waged for more than seven years in Syria, Kurds in the north have carved out a self-autonomous region and, hand-in-hand with local Arab partners, they now control more than a third of the country. They have established local administrations and built a formidable armed force that is battling ISIS. 

But their region is under threat – from Turkey which considers the Kurdish groups (the armed Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG) and the political party Democratic Union Party (PYD)) as terrorist groups with ties to the PKK, and also from the regime of Bashar al-Assad who is looking to bring the whole country back under his command. 

Could the Kurdistan Region model be a solution for northern Syria?

“This would be a desirable outcome. Whether it’s realistic is a more complicated question. My own view is that it is possible and realistic – in the longer term. Not immediately,” said David Pollock, Bernstein Fellow at The Washington Institute.

The biggest task would be convincing Turkey it’s a good idea. And the way to do that is for the PYD and YPG to distance themselves from the PKK.

The PYD has already made some progress in this regard, Pollock argued, and it should continue on this path – emphasize its coordination with other ethnic groups in the ground, make room for other Kurdish parties, and “stop talking about Ocalan.”

Abdullah Ocalan is the jailed founder of the PKK. His political theories have been the inspiration for the governing system the PYD has developed in northern Syria. 

Pollock believes it is possible to one day see Syrian Kurds and Turkey sitting down together at a negotiating table, pointing out that the PYD’s Salih Muslim publicly met with officials in Turkey just three years ago. 

“If it could happen then, it could happen again… I don’t think that this is an impossible task,” he said.

Is Turkey's blessing necessary for whatever entity emerges within the borders of Syria?

“It would be a lot better, safer, easier to come to an agreement with Turkey. I actually would go so far as to say that’s essential,” said Pollock. 

But there is another relationship that could play an important role, and that is the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) itself. 

“The potential for economic cooperation and political understanding between Syrian Kurds and Iraqi Kurds is still mostly unfulfilled,” said Pollock. 

Relations across that border have been rocky and there is some long-standing animosity, primarily between the PYD and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). But they have also worked together – famously joining forces to defeat ISIS in Kobane. 

And Pollock believes the relationship is “getting better.”

“This would be good for everybody. It would be good for us as Kurds. It would be good for Turkish-Kurdish relations. It would be good for American policy. And it would be bad for the Assad regime and for Iran and Hezbollah and its supporters who are no friends of the Kurds, either in Iraq or in Syria,” he said. 


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Hama | 8/12/2018
Is it possible? Absolutely. With PKK? Absolutely not. One of PKK's many problems is their dellusional thinking that all parts of Kurdistan can be liberated at once, and that the struggle in one region should be mixed with the struggle in another because "Kurdistan is one and all kurds are one". This is part of PKK's fantasy and just like ISIS believed in a caliphate and kept saying they can't be defeated because god is on their side, PKK keeps insisting on their ideology and unrealistic ideals despite all logic speaking against it and then Afrin happens again and they get a reality-check. As Kurdistan iS occupied by FOUR countries AND is landlocked, we can only gain autonomy independently from each other. Otherwise you end up in a situation where you try to achieve autonomy from the same government that you rely on because you alienated your neighbour by interfering in kurdish affairs in that country too. And this is not logical or possible. KRG cannot be autonomous if we rely on Baghdad. Rojava can never gain autonomy from Assad if they rely on Assad becuause they mixed themselves into kurdish affairs in Turkey in the most controversial way possible by acting as an agent for PKK thus alienating their only neighbour. This does not mean you don't care about kurds in other parts of Kurdistan. In fact it is respectful to local kurds in each region that you let them lead their own struggle otherwise you start creating civil wars like between PKK and KDP. And Kurds in Turkey can be helped much more with a strong KRG and a second autonomous kurdish region in Syria as their neighbours. It is much more beneficial to be rational and realistic than naive and sticking to ideological slogans like "All of Kurdistan is one". This serves no purpsos but prelong the suffering of kurds. PKK must either give up on power or share power with other kurdish parties who have better relations with Turkey. It's this or Afrin.
guest2002 | 8/12/2018
The funny thing is that you make it sound like that “the KRG model” is a great and successful model that needs to be replicated!!! KRG has turned into a Kurdish area under the control of two clans that do as they wish, without regardsfor the Kurdish population of the area and the impact of their actions on the greater Kurdistan in general. Bagel gives away Zkirkuk and a ladleful part of Kurdish lands and KDP gives away Shangal to the shiia jihadis. Who wants to replicate that???
Renas | 8/12/2018
I don't know if KRG model is good, but Turkey will be foreced to accept the situation somehow. Should PYD stop talking about Öcalan, remove his Pictures and distance from PKK? Absolutely, all Kurds should do dhat, not only PYD and YPG.
Stop killing Kurds | 8/12/2018
PKK is actually serving Turkish lnterests because it provides it with the pretext to kill Kurds everywhere and to invade their lands, launch endless war on every Kurd and everything Kurdish. The PKK elite is tightly manipulated by Turkey. PKK is the greatest obstacle to the Kurdish independence. It must stop fighting. Stop killing Kurds.
Mohamedzzz | 8/12/2018
Kurds all they got last 100 years was is to live as 2nd. and 3rd. class citizens, NO BODY WILL GIVE SHT WITHOUT FIGHT. Kurds should use "United we stand, divided we fall" principles, while Kurds in different countries keep surviving the way they have been doing until now, they should have an underground unified body who act in secrecy, fighting for their freedom, Kurds all over the world should commit themselves to help this organization, having in mind that only by fighting they can achieve their dreams, Without an independent Kurdistan, Kurds are destined to keep living as 2nd. and 3rd class citizens everywhere. 100+ years of suffering should stop.

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