A Different Agreement in Syrian Kurdistan

01/09/2012 RUDAW – By WLADIMIR van WILGENBURG – Some Kurds think the agreement signed between the Kurdish National Council (KNC) and the Democratic Union Party (PYD) in Syria is similar to the power-sharing deal between the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in Iraq; but it’s not.The KNC is weak and divided, while the PYD is united.

The PYD is very organized on the ground and they are armed; the KNC consists of several Kurdish parties with different ideologies and backgrounds, and often changes leadership. As a result, the PYD now has armed forces even in some areas that have traditionally been pro-KNC. This created some tension in Amude in the past, and might create problems in the future since the PYD is trying to expand beyond its traditional strongholds. The KDP and PUK have a long history of fighting and are almost equally matched within Iraqi Kurdistan — hence the 50/50 deal — but in the Syrian Kurdish areas, it is much different. As a result, some perceive the agreement to be of more a benefit to the PYD than the other Kurdish parties, but it is also 50/50.

The weakness of the KNC also explains why the Kurdish soldiers trained by the KDP could not return to Syria. First of all, the PYD only accepted that they would fall under the control of the PYD’s armed committees, and secondly no one in the KNC has been willing to lead these forces. There are huge differences of opinion within this movement. There were some attempts to set up a KNC militia, but this again failed due to disagreements.

Moreover, the PUK might also be a union of different parties, but it has clear leadership (although this will change if Talabani dies). The only thing that unites the KNC is the PYD, along with the instability in Syria.

The KNC has a better capacity to establish diplomatic relations — since they are not affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) — while the PYD controls things on the ground.

This also explains why the logo of the Kurdish Supreme Committee is more influenced by the PKK/PYD than the KNC. The PYD is stronger than all the parties in the KNC together.  The flag is a combination of the PYD logo and that of the Union of Communities in Kurdistan — the green PKK flag.

If there was a fight between the KNC and PYD, the KNC would lose. Therefore they are forced to work together. Only Qandil, which controls the PYD, and Barzani, who set up the KNC, can force the groups to work together for unity and to defend civilians.At the moment, the agreement seems to be holding together, despite the fact that some KNC members are not happy with the PYD’s domination. The PYD can only solve this by giving more room to the KNC parties, and it seems to be doing so by allowing them to open offices even in PYD strongholds. The logo was not a sign of concession, but more a message: we are the most organized party and the rest must listen to us. It seems that the KNC cannot do much about it. So we will have to wait and see what happens next.