MESOP BACKGROUNDER: WHO CONTROLS WHOM ? – Kurdish state to emerge, Kurds not to quit regions controlling: former U.S. Department of state advisor

25 Nov 2016 – MESOP NEWS – Iraqi forces, including Peshmerga forces, are advancing in their operation against the Islamic State (IS) in the northern city of Mosul. However, there are differences rifts the forces over the control of Iraqi regions in the future. Syrian Kurds too are conducting operations against the terrorist group in the north of the country. Meanwhile a new president is to go to the White House and a change is predicted in the U.S. policy in the Middle East, Kurdish regions in particular.

For taking more information about the situation in the regions and shedding light on what is to come, Kurdpress interviewed David L Phillips who is a Director of the Program on Peace-building and Rights at Columbia University’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights. He served as a Foreign Affairs Expert to the State Department’s Near Eastern Affairs Bureau during the administration of President George W. Bush. He was also a senior adviser to the State Department under President Clinton and Obama.

There is operation under way to liberate the northern city of Mosul in Iraq, what would occur to the Kurds after the operation is over?

The Peshmerga have played a critical role in the Mosul operation and they have received significant casualties. They’ve also worked closely with Iraq security forces and coordinated with the coalition, primarily the U.S., and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) will establish a committee, the committee with interface with a similar committee established by the central government in Iraq and they all start negotiating the terms of a friendly divorce. I think those political discussions should start as soon as the battle of Mosul is over.

How serious is such a negotiation. Are there negotiations over the independence of the autonomous region?

I believe that they have an agreement to negotiate the terms of independence; so parallel with the negotiation between Baghdad and Erbil, there should be a referendum so that the views of the Kurdish people in Iraqi Kurdistan are considered and then have a specific date after the referendum and a decoration of independence should be made in coordination with Baghdad.

Will the Peshmerga Kurds leave the borders they have under their control?

The borders of Iraq Kurdistan will encompass the territories currently under Iraqi Kurdistan’s control. They maybe need for a special arrangement, addressing the status of the Kirkuk city or parts of Kirkuk province. That will be determined in discussions between Erbil and Baghdad.

The U.S. has now elected a new president Donald Trump and he will be in office in two months. Will Trump follow the same policy the Obama administration had or we will see a new one?

We don’t know what policies he would follow. He has indicated that defeating the IS will be a top priority and since the Kurds in both Iraq and Syria play a critical role, I believe that the incoming administration will continue its security cooperation with Kurds in Iraqi Kurdistan as well as in Rojava (the way Kurds in Syria call Syrian Kurdistan).

How will the U.S. new administration deal with Kurds in Syria as Russia is in the country too?

Here again we don’t know. We have to wait and see. Russia has repeatedly emphasized the importance of the PYD as the representative of the Syrian Kurds having a seat at the table in Geneva when peace talks occur. I believe that over Turkey’s rejections the U.S. will encourage the PYD to participate. It cannot have meaningful negotiations unless the Syrian Kurds are involved.

Is it possible for the U.S. and Russia to reach an accord over the Kurds in northern Syria; to have a region under their control in the north?

So, there is already a region under the Kurds’ control. But I don’t envision a regional state. I do envision a contiguous territory including parts of Efrin, Jazire and Kobani provinces where the Kurds will be responsible for local security, local government, the local economy and local control over natural resources. This will be part of a broader decentralization plan for Syria allocating powers to various regions. The details of this plan will be discussed in Geneva and the details would be central to the final and full settlement of Syria civil war.

Interview: Parviz Lotfi