Sign In / Up

Add contribution as a guest

Your email will not be displayed publicly
Benefit of signing in/signing up to personalize comment

Comment as a guest

Your email will not be displayed publicly
Benefit of signing in/signing up to personalize comment


Not a member Register   Forgot Password
or connect using





Will Damascus clash with SDF over status of regions post-ISIS?

By Paul Iddon 21/4/2017
SDF forces near Raqqa. Photo: AFP
SDF forces near Raqqa. Photo: AFP
On Tuesday the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced the formation of a “civilian council” to administer Syria's Raqqa region after ISIS’ eventual expulsion. SDF spokesman Talal Silo said the SDF has already handed over towns captured from ISIS to this fledgling council.

The Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), the leading group in the SDF, have stressed that Arab elements of the SDF will lead the Raqqa offensive and Arabs from Raqqa will govern it following ISIS' removal, in order to minimize the possibility of an Arab-Kurdish conflict. 

Late last month the co-chair of the ruling Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), whose armed wing is the YPG, suggested that Raqqa could become part of the Kurds' democratic federal system. 

“We expect [this] because our project is for all Syria … and Raqqa can be part of it,” he said before adding that “the people of Raqqa are the ones who take the decision on everything.” 

The formation of the Raqqa council comes after the SDF's establishment of the Deir ez-Zur Military Council to govern the country's eastern province if they manage to capture that too, in December. 

The only SDF military council to be actually put in place to date is the Manbij Military Council, which has administered that northwestern Syrian Arab city since capturing it from ISIS last August. The SDF had established other councils for the northwestern Syrian cities of al-Bab and Jarablus, but were unable to capture those cities before Turkey's Euphrates Shield campaign did. 

Meanwhile the Syrian Army is advancing against ISIS across central Syria. Russia's state-owned Sputnik News recently quoted Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's spokesman Bouthaina Shaaban saying that: “The Syrian forces will continue to advance in other areas, including Deir ez-Zur and in the direction of Raqqa.”

This Russian-backed Syrian regime offensive is unlikely to capture Raqqa before the US-backed SDF. The SDF are already in the city of al-Tabqa west of Raqqa after US forces airlifted them into battle there late last month. The last time the Syrian regime forces launched an offensive into Raqqa was in June 2016. However they were rapidly forced to withdraw from the entire province after ISIS reinforced their positions in Tabqa and launched a counteroffensive against them.

When ISIS is finally forced from Raqqa the regime will likely challenge the legitimacy of the SDF council there. It's unclear how far the Americans would back the SDF against Assad after the ISIS threat is dealt with – especially in light of recent tensions between them, Assad, and Russia over the US rocketing of the Syrian regime's Shayrat airbase earlier this month. 

The future of Deir ez-Zur also remains in question. Any of these three possible outcomes could eventually unfold there: 

1. ISIS overwhelm the isolated garrison of Syrian soldiers there and seize the entire city (possibly after withdrawing from Raqqa) before then losing it to a US-backed SDF offensive.

2. The SDF rout ISIS from part of the city and establish their council there, leaving the city divided between them and the regime forces. Not unlike the case with the YPG's continued presence in Aleppo where the regime warned them last December to either withdraw or subjugate their forces under Syrian military command. 

3. The Syrian regime arrive there before the SDF and seize the entire city before the council can establish itself there, like the aforementioned case with the Turks in al-Bab and Jarablus.

The SDF are reluctant to relinquish their hold over territories they've captured from ISIS through the sacrifice of their fighters and resources. They could possibly use Raqqa – and maybe even parts of Deir ez-Zur as well – in the future as a bargaining chip with the regime. Perhaps they could offer to cede control over it to Damascus in return for recognition of their federal system – which Assad recently called “temporary” – in the cantons and other areas of northeastern Syria they've controlled for years now. 

SDF possession of these territories provide it with buffers against any potential future regime ground attacks on their territories as well as strategic depth against any potential Turkish invasion from the north. The main Kurdish cities of Kobani and Qamishli sit right on the Syrian-Turkish border in easy reach of Turkish artillery and tank fire. Therefore having territory controlled by friendly forces further south to withdraw to would enable the SDF/YPG areas to regroup and launch counterattacks. The SDF leadership are likely preparing contingencies to deal with such potential scenarios.  

Ultimately whatever the case turns out to be it is clear that these future regions could become contentious, even bloody, flashpoints between the SDF and the Assad regime if their status is not conclusively resolved after ISIS' removal. 


kick | 21/4/2017
Unlike the fat corrupt turkeys in Bashur the Kurdish leadership in Rojava are engaged in nation building and politics, creating buffer zones and barging chips for future settlements. The only thing our fat turkeys are worried about is their free supply of smuggled oil and booze to and from Iran/Turkey, they'll gladly go to bed with anyone if it means weakening the rival turkey
Dutchman | 22/4/2017
Paul Iddon, just like most people, overestimates the military power of the SAA, Russia, Iran, Hezbollah. So far all of these armies together with Afghan mercenaries and even the Turkish army achieved less against ISIS than the women of the YPJ alone. The SDF will finish ISIS in Syria within one year. In the 3 months after with the help of the USA and many other countries it will finish Assad and his partners in crime. The next president of Syria will probably be a women of the YPJ.
Mike | 12/5/2017
@ kick - "the Kurdish leadership in Rojava are engaged in nation building" - the sentiment is correct, but the content is false. Rojava is multicultural and polyethnic - it's not based on ethnicity, and there is no "Kurdish leadership". Rojava is Syria.

Be Part of Your Rudaw!

Share your stories, photos and videos with Rudaw, and quite possibly the world.

What You Say

Thinker | 6/27/2017 11:55:48 PM
I think Turkey is trying to distract American from Raqqa to safe Isis. It's time American withdraw from the incirlik base so that it give the...
BismarkPA | 6/28/2017 2:45:12 AM
Turkey is on its way to becoming a radical Islamic country, their president is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood which in my opinion is a terrorist...
Daily clashes between Turkish forces and YPG in Afrin
| 20 hours ago | (4)
Karen Cardona | 6/27/2017 5:47:59 AM
The details used to describe the film made me want to watch this documentary. I really feel what the author felt when he watched this movie. Every...
xingyu yang | 6/28/2017 1:22:05 AM
This is fantastic review. After read this story, I really want to watch the film. I never experience war but I don't like it. The details used to...
Kobani: Landscape of Resistance and Childhood Nostalgia
| 25/6/2017 | (11)
bain | 6/28/2017 12:06:17 AM
What this amateur is trying to say is if only the West helps Turkey slaughter some Kurds in Syria Turkey will immediately drop Russia and reinstated...
Guest | 6/28/2017 1:01:01 AM
Thank you Rudaw for publishing such a pro-Turkey/anti-Kurd article! Your editorial stuff should be given an "Anti-Kurd Journalistic Grant Prize" for...
Putin's men in the Turkish army
| 19 hours ago | (7)
bebegun | 6/27/2017 11:38:09 PM
They are most welcome to come visit anytime no matter if Kurdistan declares indipendence or not but it's not "their north", never was and never will...
Arab tourists fear losing their ‘Beloved North’ after Kurdistan referendum
| 21 hours ago | (1)

Elsewhere on Rudaw

Urban fighting, Old Mosul style: Grenade-range clashes in narrow alleys 5 hours ago |

Urban fighting, Old Mosul style: Grenade-range clashes in narrow alleys

Iraqi forces had liberated 50 percent of Old more
Arab tourists fear losing their ‘Beloved North’ after Kurdistan referendum 21 hours ago | (1)

Arab tourists fear losing their ‘Beloved North’ after Kurdistan referendum

The rest of Iraq calls Kurdistan “Shimal Habib” more
Kurdish armed party vows to ‘avenge’ deaths of 3 Peshmerga in Iran yesterday at 01:07 | (1)

Kurdish armed party vows to ‘avenge’ deaths of 3 Peshmerga in Iran

"We will avenge the blood of these martyrs." this more
0.188 seconds