Alwaght- While during the past few months the Syrian political and field developments were somehow overshadowed on the media by the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, in recent weeks the attention is back to Syria as the engaged actors step up their moves. In one of the most important political developments of the actors in northeastern Syria, rival Kurdish groups are seriously seeking unity.
Two rival Kurdish groups that since 2011 have been at loggerheads over the administration of the northern Syrian regions now seem to have plans for unifying. 25 Kurdish parties and groups in the north and eastern Syria have formed a body they dubbed “National Kurdish Union Parties” as they project for unity.
Some reports, however, have said that the Kurdish National Council in Syria (ENKS) has not yet given its green light for the idea. Suleiman Arab, the representative of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) to the Iraqi Kurdish region, commented on the case, saying that the ENKS has not finally thrown its weight behind the plan.
Presuming that they reach such an agreement, how will the intra-Kurdish unity affect the Syrian field developments and the Kurdish relations with the central Syrian government and other actors?
To answer this question, we first need to shed light on the groups constituting the two Kurdish sides.
What are the rival Kurdish sides in northern Syria?
After the eruption of the Syrian conflict in 2011, which created a vacuum of power in the Arab country, the Kurds seized much of the north without Syria hurdles. But since the beginning, they broke into two rival parties: The Kurdish National Council of Syria and the People’s Council of West Kurdistan (MGRK).
Although as the field developments continued in the country the ENKS saw some changes and such parties as the Kurdish Democratic Progressive Party separated ways from the alliance, the polar structure still stands among the two alliances. The ENKS is led by the former president of the Iraqi Kurdish region Masoud Barzani and the MGRK is under the leadership of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
In a joint statement on their agreement to unite, the two alliances said: “as the National Kurdish Union Parties, we work jointly to make progress in the Kurdish issues. A joint committee representing all parties will act towards this goal.”
The Syrian Kurdish unity and political future
If the unity between the two major Syrian Kurdish blocs materializes, it will have considerable influences on their political future. The first round of talks among the Syrian Kurds was arranged in 2013 with the management of Masoud Barzani. The last round was held in October 2019 with the management of Mazloum Kobani, the commander of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
Now it seems that the obstacles ahead of their union have decreased and in the future they can finalize their agreement. A couple of points need to be mentioned concerning their political future should they reach a final agreement.
1. The ENKS like the PYD has trained military forces and in case of an agreement, they will possibly return to northern Syria from Iraqi Kurdistan. This will increase the Kurdish military strength. But it should be taken into account that the coexistence of two military forces without a firm treaty can cause tensions between the two sides.
2. Domestically, an agreement will strengthen the Kurdish stance in the talks with the central government. But any scenario without return of control of north and northeast Syria to Damascus cannot be successful. So, the best strategy for the Kurds after unity is direct cooperation with the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
3. Regionally, Ankara finds the unity among the Syrian Kurds an existential threat that can encourage the 14-million Kurdish community of Turkey to seek separation.
4. The US as the ally of the Syrian Kurds since 2014 will possibly support this agreement. Washington has been under fire for betraying the Kurds just ahead of the Turkish operation in October 2019 by announcing pulling out the troops from northern Syria. The agreement seems to bear the potentials to reduce American responsibility towards them.