Abbas Vali: A Power Struggle among Kurds, Cooperation between Erdoğan & Barzani Delaying Kurdish National Conference

8.1.20213 – In an article in yesterday’s Radikal Ezgi Başaran spoke with Abbas Vali, the distinguished Kurdish political scientist, about the future of the Kurdish National Conference, now postponed for a second time, and the state of Kurdish politics more generally. Among other things Abbas spoke about the current bargaining over Rojava, the relationship between Turkey and KRG, and the effect that Western intervention in Syria will have on the PYD. Below are some translated excerpts of what Abbas Vali had to say.

On the PKK’s reaction to intervention/Turkey’s Relationship with the PYD

The PKK will adopt the same attitude to an American intervention in Syria as they did to the one in Iraq. I mean it will neither play a large role in the intervention nor take a strong stance against it. It will focus on the opportunities that this intervention will create and will take its position accordingly. In my opinion what we saw from Turkey over the last 18 months in regards to Syria was a wrong-headed and unsuccessful policy. The backbone of this policy was to bring together an opposition that either viewed the Kurds as a minority or excluded them entirely. But the result of this policy that was removed from the realities in Syria was this: The Kurds broke from the Free Syrian Army and decided to create their own path. Ironically the thing most responsible for the PYD’s separation was this policy of Turkey’s. They met with Salih Muslim however only after it was too late did they realize that he was not in a weak position and that he would not play the game the way the AKP wanted.

The Possible Courses of US-led Intervention and its Affect on the PYD

When Assad’s regime is on the brink of collapse (whether or not the USA will accomplish this or not with their intervention I am not sure) the main question will be: Who will control the oil? Today the PYD, if with the compliance of Assad, have taken control of the oil reserves. Certainly all of this could change according to the scope and shape of an American intervention. If it is like Kosovo and they only attack from the air, soldiers are not put on the ground, then this creates a great opprtunity for the PYD. Because America will not strike places under PYD control. After the intervention the PYD will employ all its forces against al-Nusra and consolidate its control in the region. However in this situation I think a second scenario could develop, and that is after the US has bombed and Assad has fallen from power Turkish soldiers could enter Syria. The Turkish army could move into Syria to prevent the PYD from becoming stronger and from a second autonomous Kurdish region after Northern Iraq coming into existence.

On Barzani’s Role in Rojava

Barzani wants to have a voice in what happens in Rojava. Using his more than 100 thousand peşmerge he could take such a step. But there is a small chance of this and I doubt it could be successful. Here the main problem on the subject of Rojava is that Turkey views the KRG has a proxy force. However in the sense the KRG has its limits. The first is to fight with other Kurds outside of its borders (in Rojava). The second is that those Kurds are being supported by the PKK. They will keep clear of this. There it would be extremely difficult for the KRG to be successful in task that would undermine its own foundations. I think that the PKK is aware that such bargaining is going on over Rojava between Turkey and KRG.

The Kurdish National Congress

Turkey has made the KRG an ally in every step it has taken in Kurdish lands. We can also see this reflected in and one of the reasons behind the further delay of the Kurdish National Congress, which has already been put off for some time. The Kurdish National Congress was Öcalan’s idea. The goal was to have the peace negotiations he launched be accepted by all Kurds in the Kurdish regions and to win legitimacy. In addition this congress was to position Öcalan as the most important leader in these regions. For this reason neither Erdoğan or Barzani were pleased by it. Therefore the congress’ substance and plan is changing, and it is getting farther from its starting point. This congress has now turned into a Kurdish National Congress according to Erdoğan and Barzani, and not a Kurdish National Congress. This is what it is. I will clarify the reasons. In particular it has to this day been unable to settle on its agenda. At a congress where a stateless nation will gather to decide its own future there has been no appeal to the right and principle of self-determination – the right for a nation to decide on its own future – as recognized by the UN. There this is not a question of wanting or not wanting an independent state. We know that the PKK, PUK and Barzani do not want this however to renounce the right to want to have a state as a nation is another thing. At the same time this existence as a nation sits at the foundation of international law, and it is important to put it on paper. But the congress has no theoretical identity on the subject that has been agreed upon. If it goes forward as is what has it accomplished? All the Kurds are meeting to approve the partition of Kurdistan and the 1918 borders. And those who look skeptically at this conference and say that Turkey’s fingerprints are on it are justified. Because in this way all the Kurds in the region are saying “ok” to Kurdish history after 1918.

The second subject is the representation of Kurds in the congress.  Was the number of delegates determined according to the Kurdish population or according to political influence? There will be 600 participants. Of these 600 seats the PKK wants 230. THe KRG wants 150. 90 seats are left for Iran and 130 for Syrian Kurds. However in this situation the PKK and PYD are dominating the congress from the beginning. Erdoğan and Barzani do not accept this. We can say that on the question of the conference there is a serious power struggle going on among Kurds. In particular between the PKK and KRG. The KRG might be strong in its own region but the PKK should not be underrated. Because the PKK is not only a political organization, it is social movement in Turkey and Syria. If they manage to gain control of the Syrian oil reserves in Rojava, next to their political influence they will become an economic power that will create difficulties for all actors in the region.