Note: The following interview was conducted by a KurdPress journalist. The original interview can be found in multiple languages here. Interview was conducted via email.

It is possible that new US President Joe Biden will interact with Turkey and the Syrian Kurds and he would likely will ask Turkey to negotiate with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) as well as the Syrian Kurdish-Arab forces known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

Anthony Avice Du Buisson told KurdPress.

Of course, it is also possible that the United States wants to expand its relations with the Northeastern Syrian Autonomous Administration (AANES),” the analyst also said.

Turkey’s pressure on the Syrian Kurds has intensified in recent weeks as US President Donald Trump is giving up power and especially as tensions between Turkish-backed insurgents and the Kurdish forces in northern Syria has escalated. The Kurds have warned that Turkey will launch another wider military operation against the Syrian Kurds at the same time as the transition to power is occurring in the United States.

Turkey possible attack on Syrian Kurds before Biden takes office

President Erdogan of Turkey shakes President Trump’s hand in November, 13 2019.
Source: REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

There is no doubt that President Erdogan (Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan) has taken advantage of the Trump administration’s disinterest in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region over the last four years. It was only last year, for example, when Erdogan gave the greenlight to Operation Peace Spring which saw Turkish-backed forces capture Serikanye (Ras al-Ayn) and Giri Spi (Tell Abyad) in northeast Syria. The mass displacement of hundreds of thousands including the gross human rights violations that followed that, as well as multiple international law violations, remain a tragedy. Trump’s disregard for Erdogan’s actions only demonstrated a weakness in the strength of US commitment to the people of northeast Syria. Only with mounting political pressure by Congress did Trump acquiesce to a ceasefire deal with the Erdogan regime, taking an opportunity to reposition forces in Hasakah and Deir Ezzor to defend oil reserves with remaining forces.

Anthony said about Erdogan’s willing to attack the Kurdish region in Syria known as Rojava.

About the impact of Biden’s election on the situation of the Kurds and Turkey, Mr. Du Buisson said:

The victory of President-elect Joe Biden signals a stark departure from the Trump era’s undefined foreign policy. Biden has made it clear that he will be an ardent supporter of human rights and will not tolerate autocracies, this includes Erdogan’s regime. He has even taken time to condemn Erdogan’s repeated violations of international law and invasions of the northeast. This potential reboot of US foreign policy will disrupt the Erdogan regime’s plans for the northeast.

So, the window of opportunity is closing and the Turkish government is utilizing its proxy forces to place pressure on the northeast, well simultaneously exploiting internal strife between various Kurdish forces (RojPesh, KDP pesh, YPG and HPG) in the KRI to place pressure on autonomous region. A potential attack on Kobani and Ain Issa is thus a definite possibility. The question is whether Erdogan will take the gamble and the likely sanctions that will come with an incoming Biden administration.

he said about the recent tensions between Iraqi Kurds and the Kurds in Syria and the PKK.

Recent PKK attacks against Kurdistan Region security forces

From Left to Right: Co-head of the PUK (Bafel Talabani), President of the KRG (Nechirvan Barzani) and General coordinator of Gorran Movement (Omer Said Ali) during a meeting in parliament on December 8, 2020.
Source: KRG

Anthony talking about the recent clashes between Peshmerga and PKK said the following:

The PKK has continued to operate in the KRI for the last couple decades since the 1990s. In this period of time, there has been on and off clashes between HPG forces (PKK’s military wing) and the KDP Peshmerga. These tensions remain over the vision of what type of governance a potential Kurdish statelet should be under. Another reason for these tensions is KDP’s close cooperation with the Turkish government, which it gives unfettered access to the region to conduct cross border operations against the PKK.

Warming bilateral relations between the KRG and Turkish government over economic, security and political matters has placed the KRG in a tight position of relying heavily on the Turkish state for investment. This over-reliance on the Turkish government for things such as financial and security assistance has only antagonized the PKK, who views the KDP as an extension of Turkish security apparatus. PKK operatives conduct attacks on Turkish security forces from the region, including assassinations of officials. The KDP Peshmerga along with the Rojava Peshmerga are helping Turkish security forces in their efforts to target HPG operatives across the region, notably in Duhok.

However, Turkish security forces have targeted civilians in the Kurdish region during cross border operations including those in IDP camps. This has been largely unreported by KRG media and only scarcely reported by some international media outlets. The death of Peshmerga during these operations along with scuffles between Kurdish forces is only a consequence of the wider PKK-Turkey conflict.

he further said in this regard.

Mr. Du Buisson pointed to the creation of a common front between the KDP and Turkey against the PKK and said:

For Turkey the war against the PKK is a pretext to keep Kurdish self-determination restrained. Exploiting intra-Kurdish divisions is just one of the many tactics that the government in Ankara uses to keep Kurds distracted from pursuing statehood, which it perceives as a threat to the Turkish state. As for the KRG, KDP perceives PKK as only undermining the autonomy of the region and has an interest in constraining PKK activity, especially since KRG relies heavily on international training to bolster its forces, maintain its economy and the rule of Barzani clan.

Joe Biden’s ability to save Syrian Kurds

President-elect Joe Biden speaks at The Queen Theater in Wilmington, Del., Tuesday, Dec 22, 2020.
Source: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Mr. Du Buisson said about Biden government’s behavior towards the Kurdish issue in the Middle East:

The Biden administration will be coming into an already complex region that continues to have multi-faceted problems. For the Biden administration, Turkey continues to be perceived as a valuable NATO ally, especially as a bulwark against Russia and Iran. Regardless of whether this perception is true, it still remains the view of Washington and with that in mind Biden will be attempting to balance this view with on the ground developments. The SDF remains an important local partner in the fight against Daesh (ISIS) under operation Inherent Resolve. With the operation increasingly being dragged out as a pretext for US troop presence in northeast Syria, there will need to be an adjustment of policy…  

About Biden’s choices in dealing with the Syrian Kurds and Turkey to resolve the crisis, he told KurdPress that…

The Biden administration might seek to reboot relations with Ankara at the SDF’s expense – this is if Biden does not follow through with his commitment to curtail autocracies globally. However, an alternative that Biden might pursue – and which I believe is more likely – is to foster relations with the AANES and by extension the SDF. He may potentially seek to transition the AANES into a KRG type region by pushing for intra-Kurdish talks. Biden could place pressure on Turkey to seek talks with PKK and SDF, thus allowing for a potential of having his cake and eating it too. These are just some possibilities.

He finally stressed that:

The biggest issue for Biden when it comes to Syria is just the larger conflict and balancing US relations with Turkey. These are not going to be easy issues to solve, especially since US-TR relations have declined in the last five years despite the Trump administration’s efforts to reboot it. It may indeed be time for the US to look to other state actors in the region to form close partnerships with. The Kurdish factions in Syria, along with the rest of the MENA region may not be major players in this shifting political environment, but they do remain important in a new middle east.

Reporter’s code: 50101

Published on KurdPress on 24/12/2020

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