Syrian Kurds claim to be fighting against terror as they strive for autonomy, a goal that they have yet to achieve even after decades of effort. But their efforts are being co-opted by Western powers that are using them to achieve their own ends in the Middle East.
SYRIA (Analysis)– In Part I of independent analyst Sarah Abed’s three-part analysis for MintPress News, Abed began exposing the modern-day Kurdish/Israeli alliance that both parties have tried to keep hidden in order to avoid drawing the public’s attention to their ultimate plan, as well as the U.S.’ use of Kurdish factions in destabilizing the Middle East. The Kurds have engaged in such relationships in part because of internal divisions and disunity, which have also made it difficult to fulfill their goal of establishing a fully autonomous Kurdistan spanning over the four countries they currently occupy.
We also examined the Syrian government’s attempts at keeping the country united by addressing and implementing constitutional changes that benefit the Kurds – attempts that have still failed to convince separatist Kurds to abandon their goal of Balkanizing and illegally confiscating parts of Syria at the cost of the people who reside there.
Part II examines this topic in greater depth in hopes of raising awareness of this little-known but imperative part of the Syrian puzzle. Abed will analyze the Kurds’ link to apartheid Israel and why the country has taken such a strong interest in the group, as well as the strange phenomenon of Western military veterans traveling to Syria to fight alongside the Kurds.
The Kurdish link to Daesh (ISIS) will also be covered, as a number of Kurds have chosen to fight on their side. Kurdish alliances with armed terrorist groups in Syria – particularly Daesh – are very telling signs as to what extremes Kurds will go to in order to bring their ideological manifestation of an independent, autonomous Kurdistan into existence.
Washington and Tel Aviv’s geopolitical plans for dominating the Middle East can only be dismantled if the majority of citizens understand the intricate behind-the-scenes mechanisms that are driving their plan. Ultimately, their goal is not only to destabilize Iraq and Syria and divide them into statelets, but also to weaken Iran’s global presence – objectives that are being pursued with the help of the Kurds.
Kurdish ties to Israel
The Kurdish-Israeli relationship has matured significantly. Since at least the 1960s, Israel has provided intermittent security assistance and military training to the Kurds. This served mostly as an anti-Saddam play – keeping him distracted as Israel fought two wars against coordinated Arab neighbors – but mutual understanding of their respective predicaments also bred an Israeli-Kurdish affinity. All signs point to this security cooperation continuing today. Israeli procurement of affordable Kurdish oil not only indicates a strengthening of economic ties, but also an Israeli lifeline to budget-starved Erbil that suggests a strategic bet on the Kurds in an evolving region.
The people closest to the Jews from a genetic point of view may be the Kurds, according to the results of a recent study by Hebrew University.
The Kurds are allied with Syria’s fiercest enemy – Israel – whose planned Greater Israel project coincidentally aligns almost perfectly with the Kurds’ plans for “Kurdistan.” In the Oded Yinon plan, which is the plan for a “Greater Israel,” it states the imperative use of Kurds to help divide neighboring countries in order to aid in their plans for greater domination. Interestingly enough, Kurds brush this alliance off as being just another step in achieving their ultimate goal of creating an autonomous Kurdistan.
Every major Kurdish political group in the region has longstanding ties to Israel. It’s all linked to major ethnic violence against Arabs, Turkmens and Assyrians. From the PKK in Turkey to the PYD and YPG in Syria, PJAK in Iran to the most notorious of them all, the Barzani-Talabani mafia regime (KRG/Peshmerga) in northern Iraq. Thus it should come as no surprise that Erbil supplied Daesh (ISIS) with weaponry to weaken the Iraqi government in Baghdad. And when it becomes understood that Erbil is merely the front for Tel Aviv in Iraq, the scheme becomes clear.
Israel has reportedly been providing the KRG with weapons and training even prior its military encounters with Daesh. On the level of economic strategy, Israel granted critical support to the KRG by buying Kurdish oil in 2015 when no other country was willing to do so because of Baghdad’s threat to sue. KRG Minister of Natural Resources Ashti Hawrami even admitted to the arrangement, saying that Kurdish oil was often funneled through Israel to avoid detection.
In January 2012 the French newspaper Le Figaro claimed that Israeli intelligence agents were recruiting and training Iranian dissidents in clandestine bases located in Iraq’s Kurdish region. By aligning with the Kurds, Israel gains eyes and ears in Iran, Iraq and Syria. A year later, the Washington Post disclosed that Turkey had revealed to Iranian intelligence a network of Israeli spies working in Iran, including ten people believed to be Kurds who reportedly met with Mossad members in Turkey. This precarious relationship between Israel and Turkey persists today.
Western veterans take up the Kurdish cause
The Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and its Syrian spinoff, the YPG, are cult-like radical movements that intertwine Marxism, feminism, Leninism and Kurdish nationalism into a hodge-podge of ideology, drawing members through the extensive use of propaganda that appeals to these modes of thought. Abdullah Ocalan, the leader of the PKK, took inspiration from American anarchist Murray Bookchin in creating his philosophy, which he calls “Democratic Confederalism.”
The PKK spin-off group YPG represents most of the SDF in Syria. With Western political support, they have gained popularity and garnered an impressive amount of support from many military veterans in the West, some of whom have left the comfort of their home countries to fight with the group. One of their most productive marketing tools has been to use young, attractive female fighters as the face of the guerrillas. During their fight against Daesh, the PKK has saturated the media with images of these young female “freedom fighters,” using them as a marketing tool to take their cause from obscurity to fame.
Watch | BBC report on female Kurdish fighters in Syria, featuring Kurdish singer ‘Helly Luv’
But what doesn’t get reported is how the movement has carried out kidnappings and murder – not to mention its involvement in trafficking narcotics.
Kurdish families are demanding that the PKK stop kidnapping minors. It started on April 23, the day Turkey marked its 91st National Sovereignty and Children’s Day. While children celebrated the holiday in western Turkey, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) kidnapped 25 students between the ages of 14 and 16 on the east side of the country, in the Lice district of Diyarbakir.
Although the PKK has kidnapped more than 330 minors in the last six months, the Bockum family was the first in the region who put up a tent near their home to start a sit-in protest, challenging the PKK and demanding that it return their son. Sinan was returned to the family on May 4. Al-Monitor reported this incident from the beginning in great detail.
As Bebyin Somuk reported in her article, the PKK and PYD still kidnap children in Turkey and Syria. She states: “As I previously wrote for Kebab and Camel, the PKK commits war crimes by recruiting children as soldiers. Some of the PKK militants that surrendered yesterday were also the PKK’s child soldiers. The photos clearly show that these children are not more than sixteen years old. The Turkish army released video of the 25 PKK militants surrendering in Nusaybin.”
SouthFront reported on female PKK fighters who have killed Turkish soldiers. “The women fighters command of the Kurdistan Worker Party (PKK) have released a statement, claiming PKK female fighters killed 160 Turkish military servicemen in 2016. According to the statement, the women fighters command of the PKK carried out 115 operations against Turkish government forces in 2016. The group also vowed to ‘proceed the struggle during the new year for a life of freedom and until victory is achieved.’”
The PKK is also killing Kurds under the guise of protecting their rights. “Senior PKK leader Cemil Bayık, in an interview with the Fırat News Agency (ANF) on Aug. 8, said, ‘Our war will not be confined to the mountains like it was before. It will be spread everywhere without making a distinction between mountains, plains or cities. It will spread to the metropolises.’ Terrorist Bayık’s statement signaled that the PKK would take increasing aim against civilians, targeting civilian areas more than ever. And it is happening. Since July 15, the day when the Gülenist terror cult, FETÖ, launched its failed military coup attempt to topple the democratically-elected government, the PKK perpetrated dozens of terrorist attacks, killing 21 civilians and injuring 319 others – most of them Kurdish citizens.”
According to The Washington Institute “On November 18, FBI Director Robert Mueller met with senior Turkish officials to address U.S.-Turkish efforts targeting the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), also known as Kongra-Gel. A press release from the U.S. embassy in Ankara following the meeting stressed that U.S. officials ‘strongly support Turkey’s efforts against the PKK terrorist organization’ and highlighted the two countries’ long history of working together in the fight against terrorism and transnational organized crime.
These discussions are timely. Despite Ankara’s recent bid to alleviate the Kurdish issue — a bid referred to as the ‘democratic opening’ — the PKK is one of a growing number of terrorist organizations with significant stakes in the international drug trade. In October, the U.S. Treasury Department added three PKK/Kongra-Gel senior leaders to its list of foreign narcotics traffickers. The PKK, along with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), is one of only a few organizations worldwide designated by the U.S. government as both a terrorist organization and a significant foreign narcotics trafficker.”
Drug smuggling is reported to be the main financial source of PKK terrorism, according to the organization International Strategic Research, whose detailed report can be seen here.
Their exaggerated triumphs against Daesh have helped them evolve from a radical militia to an alleged regional power player. Have they been successful in fighting against Daesh in Syria? Yes – but while the Syrian Arab Army has been more effective, it does not receive a fraction of the praise or recognition that the PKK does.
Pato Rincon, a U.S. military veteran, recently wrote about his experience training with the YPG in Syria. Although initially interested in their desire for autonomy, he soon got to know a different side of the group:
While they are a direct ideological descendant of the Soviet Union, their take on Marxism has a much more nationalistic bent than that of their internationalist forebears. At their training camp that I attended, they constantly spoke of their right to a free and autonomous homeland–which I could support. On the other hand, they ludicrously claimed that all surrounding cultures from Arab to Turk to Persian descended from Kurdish culture. One should find this odd, considering that the Kurds have never had such autonomy as that which they struggle for. All of this puffed-up nationalism masquerading as internationalism was easy to see through…not only was their idea of Marxism fatuous, their version of feminism was even worse.”
Accounts such as this will certainly not make it to mainstream media, as they do not fit the narrative that the Kurds and their sponsors promote.
In another example of Western support for the YPG, Joe Robinson, an ex-soldier and UK national, recently returned to the UK after spending five months in Syria fighting with the group. He was detained and arrested by Greater Manchester Police officers on suspicion of terrorism offenses as soon as he returned. He joined the British military when he was 18 and toured Afghanistan with the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment in 2012.
He left the UK when an arrest warrant was issued after he failed to appear in court. Robinson is pictured here in Syria with YPG fighters.
Robinson is on the far left, holding his weapon while his fellow YPG comrades are holding a Daesh flag. The writing on the wall speaks volumes about the relationship between Israel, the Kurds and the United States.
SDF working with Daesh
The most evident contradiction to be noted is that the Kurds in the SDF are working with the U.S. through its so-called “Operation Inherent Resolve,” which is the official name for its anti-Daesh operations. But at the same time, the U.S.-led coalition, including Kurdish armed units, lets “militants of the Islamic State terrorist group leave Raqqa instead of killing them,” according to Sergey Surovikin, the commander of Russia’s force grouping in Syria.
“Instead of eliminating terrorists guilty of killing hundreds and thousands of Syrian civilians, the U.S.-led coalition together with the Democratic Forces enters into collusion with ringleaders of ISIL, who give up the settlements they had seized without fighting and head to the provinces where the Syrian government forces are active,” he said.
Sputnik Arabic was able to talk to Husma Shaib, a Syrian expert on armed groups in Syria who explained why the SDF is comparable to the al-Nusra Front and what the actual aim of their operations in Syria is.
“In Syria, we regard these forces as unlawful military formations which operate outside of the legal environment. They are the same a terrorist units like al-Nusra Front and Daesh. The Syrian Democratic Forces do not coordinate their activities with the Syrian Army. We regard them as terrorists,” Shaib told Sputnik.
The SDF is mostly comprised of the Kurdish YPG militia, which unanimously declared the “federalization” of what they call “Rojava,” or “Western Kurdistan,” in March 2016.
The leaders of the SDF announced that they’ll try to annex the majority-Arab city of Raqqa if they manage to liberate it.
The Kurds are ethnically cleansing Arabs from Raqqa en masse in order to pave the way for the city’s annexation to their unilaterally declared “Federation” after its forthcoming capture.
Hostility against SAA forces
On June 18, a U.S. jet shot down a Syrian Su-22 fighter-bomber near the city of Tabqa. The U.S.-led coalition said the Syrian aircraft attacked SDF positions, adding that the coalition downed the Syrian jet as part of “collective self-defense of coalition partnered forces,” according to Sputnik News.
However, the SAA stated that they were, in fact, attacking Daesh, not the SDF. The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) then sent in a rescue mission to retrieve the downed pilot. Al Masdar News (AMN) reported that they encountered intense resistance from the SDF, which would imply a serious escalation between the two.
The Syrian Army General Command responded with an official statement that the flagrant aggression undoubtedly affirms the US’s real stance in support of terrorism which aims to affect the capability of the Syrian Arab Army- the only active force- along with its allies that practice its legitimate right in combating terrorism all over Syria.
“The attack stresses coordination between the US and ISIS, and it reveals the evil intentions of the US in administering terrorism and investing it to pass the US-Zionist project in the region.” The statement added.
It affirmed that such aggressions would not affect the Syrian Arab Army in its determination to continue the fight against ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist organizations and to restore security and stability to all Syrian territories.
Earlier in the week, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told Sputnik that the U.S. strikes on SDF aircraft are aiding terrorists. “In the case of strikes [by U.S. forces on the aircraft and drones of the Syrian Armed Forces], we are dealing with an open complicity with the terrorists operating on Syrian soil,” Ryabkov said.
CIA-armed Kurds in Syria
The U.S.-led coalition has on numerous occasions stated that it is working with the SDF to try to defeat Daesh in Syria. However, there have been numerous reports of U.S.-led airstrikes targeting Syrian civilians, military and infrastructure. These deadly and avoidable mistakes clearly illustrate how the US-led coalition’s presence in Syria has had a harmful impact on civilians. On June 26, the SDF cut off water supplies to 1 million civilians in Aleppo. Some sources stated that this was out of spite, whereas others stated they were unaware of the reason(s) behind such a destructive and deliberate against innocent civilians.
On July 5, 21st Century Wire reported on U.S. efforts to establish a greater military presence in Syria. “The U.S. is setting up its military bases in the territories that were liberated from Daesh by our fighters during the fight against terrorism,” a senior SDF representative stated.
The Syrian government considers separatist Kurds to be just as dangerous as Daesh and other terrorist groups in the country. Their plans to destabilize the country are more dangerous than those of Daesh, especially since the West provides them with moral support, weapons, training, financial aid, armed vehicles and even air support. “We’ll be recovering [weapons] during the battle, repairing them. When they don’t need certain things anymore, we’ll replace those with something they do need,” stated U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis in late June.
Kurds selling weapons given to them from Germany to fight against Daesh
Reporters from German broadcasters NDR and WDR found several G3 assault rifles and a P1 pistol, all engraved with the initials “BW” for Bundeswehr – Germany’s military – in the northern Iraqi cities of Erbil and Sulaymaniyah.
The weapons apparently came from stocks that the German government delivered to the Kurdish autonomous government in northern Iraq. The weapons were intended to be used in the fight against the Daesh. Several members of Germany’s Green and Left parties have long raised concerns in parliament that arms delivered to Peshmerga fighters could fall into the wrong hands.
There have been several credible reports since the U.S.-led military alliance formed to help combat Daesh in Syria and Iraq of American-supplied weapons falling into the hands of unallied militias and even Daesh itself.
The U.S. has armed the Kurds and supported their efforts since helping them establish the Syrian Democratic Forces on Oct. 10, 2015. The U.S. needed to fund a group within Syria that was fighting against Daesh, but that was not as extremist as the Free Syrian Army, which was outed as being affiliated with al-Qaeda. The U.S. has stated that its main reason for being in Syria is to fight Daesh, but its actions have proved otherwise. Its true mission is to destabilize the country by assisting the Kurds through the SDF and other armed opposition forces in liberating land that can be used as a bargaining tool in future negotiations.
Watch | Ron Paul: Arming the Kurds was a dangerous idea
Washington has repeatedly brushed aside Ankara’s irrefutable evidence that the YPG is an extension of the outlawed PKK terrorist organization, which has terrorized Turkey for more than three decades. U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis has sent a letter to his Turkish counterpart Fikri Işık pledging that the United States will retrieve the weapons it sent to the YPG immediately after Daesh is defeated.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Defense will supply Turkey with detailed lists of the military materials and equipment dispatched to the YPG, implying that the U.S. aims to guarantee transparency in their bilateral relationship. This itself is an attempt to backtrack on a terrible decision that the U.S. may or may not believe they have made. If the reality hasn’t sunk in yet, it most certainly will when the Kurds refuse to give back the weapons or decide to sell them. Washington will then have to deal with an even more disgruntled Turkey.
Why Are Kurds Joining Daesh?
For over a year, Kurdish forces have united in defense against bloody Daesh attacks. So how has Daesh still managed to recruit hundreds of young Kurds to fight for the caliphate against their own families?
“There are Kurdish families in Halabja whose sons are in IS [Daesh] and their hearts are broken, but I’ll never go to their funerals,” said the grieving mother of Kaihan Borhan, a Kurd who died fighting with the Peshmerga against Daesh. Her family is distraught that the people responsible for his death could well be Kurdish nationals.
“I have a friend whose brother died fighting for ISIS,” said Kaihan’s brother. “I never grieved for him and my friend cannot bear to look me in the eye.” Here, we can see the path to extremism that many Kurds have taken. Dissatisfaction with the Kurdish intelligence service, Asayish’s persecution of Muslims and domestic grievances are being skilfully exploited by Daesh through the use of propaganda, led by Khattab Al-Kurdi and his Saladin Brigade.
“With God’s permission we will sow the seeds of the Caliphate throughout our land,” said Khattab, who has been one of the most persuasive forces in luring Kurds towards the caliphate. Even with Khattab’s reported death in April 2015, the threat of more Kurds joining Daesh seems unlikely to diminish, with a new Kurdish imam carrying the rhetoric forward.
Kurds being used to destabilize Iran
Documents leaked by WikiLeaks in 2010 suggested that Israeli Mossad Chief Meir Dagan wanted to use Kurds and ethnic minorities to topple the Iranian government. The Israeli spy service was aiming to create a weak and divided Iran, similar to the situation in Iraq, where the Kurds have their own autonomous government, the spy chief told a U.S. official.
The Partiya Jiyana Azad a Kurdistane (PJAK), a militant Kurdish nationalist group based in northern Iraq, has been carrying out attacks on Iranian forces in the Kurdistan Province of Iran (Eastern Kurdistan) and other Kurdish-inhabited areas. Half the members of PJAK are women. The PJAK has about 3,000 armed militiamen. They represent yet another example of the Kurds finding themselves in the middle of a conflict and being used as a pawn by the West.
The party is closely linked to the PKK. Iran has often accused PJAK and other Kurdish nationalist groups from Iran of being supported by Israel. Journalist Seymour Hersh has also claimed that the U.S. supported PJAK and other Iranian opposition groups. However, both the U.S. and Israel have denied supporting PJAK. In fact, the U.S. Treasury branded PJAK as a terrorist organization last year.
As Hersh noted in 2004: “The Israelis have had long-standing ties to the Talibani and Barzani clans [in] Kurdistan and there are many Kurdish Jews that emigrated to Israel and there are still a lot of connection. But at some time before the end of the year , and I’m not clear exactly when, certainly I would say a good six, eight months ago, Israel began to work with some trained Kurdish commandos, ostensibly the idea was the Israelis — some of the Israeli elite commander units, counter-terror or terror units, depending on your point of view, began training — getting the Kurds up to speed.”
Why are the so-called Kurdish “freedom fighters” willing to get in bed with any and every group that has an interest in destabilizing Syria? The provocative manner in which the SDF has teamed up with terrorist organizations during the war in Syria is a blaring contradiction to the “revolutionary” public relations image that they have fought hard to establish in recent years.
Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran, continue to oppose the notion of having their borders and sovereignty divided by the U.S. for yet another U.S./NATO-dictated social engineering experiment in the Middle East.
Attempts to rewrite geographic history
An estimated 30 million Kurds reside primarily in mountainous regions of present-day Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey. They remain the world’s largest nomadic population without a sovereign state. The Kurds are not monolithic, however, and tribal identities and political interests often supersede a unifying national allegiance.
Some Kurds, particularly those who have migrated to urban centers, such as Istanbul, Damascus and Tehran, have integrated and assimilated, while many who remain in their ancestral lands maintain a strong sense of a distinctly Kurdish identity. A Kurdish diaspora of an estimated two million people is concentrated primarily in Europe, with over a million in Germany alone. These migratory wanderers never possessed their own country at any point in their history, but were always part of a larger country or empire that took them in and provided them refuge.
The version of events that the Kurds present is in staunch contrast with the account that is supported by most historians. This has proven to be a point of contention between the Kurds and the citizens of other countries.
The Kurds claim to have been conquered and occupied throughout their history, for instance. Here is an example of their attempt to rewrite history to fit their narrative: “The Kurdish region has seen a long list of invaders and conquerors: Ancient Persians from the east, Alexander the Great from the west, Muslim Arabs in the 7th Century from the south, Seljuk Turks in the 11th Century from the east, the Mongols in the 13th Century from the east, medieval Persians from the east and the Ottoman Turks from the north in the 16th Century and most recently, the United States in its 2003 invasion of Iraq.”
In Part III of MPN’s Sarah Abed analysis of the Kurds’ role in helping the U.S. and Israel destabilize the Middle East, she will cover human rights violations, both past and present, committed by the Kurds against Arabs and Christian minorities, as well as address misconceptions as to why the Kurds remain stateless.
Top Photo | An Iraqi Kurd reads a copy of the magazine Israel-Kurd on a street in Irbil, Iraq in 2009. Azad Lashkari | Reuters
Sarah Abed is an independent journalist and political commentator, covering a broad range of issues relating to the Syrian war, Kurdish issues in Iraq and Syria, as well as U.S policy in the Middle East. She appears frequently in international media and speaks at universities. See more of her work at her personal blog: The Rabbit Hole.