Iraqi President Massoud Barzani has been busily taking advantage of these opportunities and has organised and overseen several meetings between different Syrian Kurdish factions. In late 2011, one of these meetings resulted in the formation of Syria’s Kurdish National Council, which supposedly represents most of the Kurdish political parties in that country when Iraqi Kurdish and Syrian Kurdish interests merge. But many are disputing this, saying that rather than all Iraqi Kurdish interests, the interests here are those of Barzani’s KDP party.

“At a recent meeting between Iraqi Kurdistan and Syria’s Kurdish National Council, all of the officials from Iraq were KDP [Barzani’s] people,” said one Syrian Kurd now living in Iraqi Kurdistan’s Sulaymaniyah, in late January.  “It was striking.”

However, despite any intentions Barzani may have for it and despite the fact that it looks good on paper, the Kurdish National Council’s influence remains fairly limited inside Syria. When compared to the well organised Syrian Kurdish political party, the Democratic Union Party (or PYD) in Syria, the National Council looks disorganised and ineffectual.  Comprised of various factions that cannot seem to agree on anything, the National Council cannot seem to make many real decisions.

“The leadership of the Council has different political leanings, everyone does his own thing and nobody really cares what the others are doing,” says Mustapha Jumma, who leads the Kurdish Freedom Party in Syria, and who is also part of the Kurdish National council.

Many critics of the Council see this ineffective behaviour as a result of the fact that the various smaller factions owe their allegiances to one side or another in Iraqi Kurdistan – either they’re KDP people or they’re backed by the PUK.

Outside of political manoeuvring, Barzani has also been training Syrian Kurdish refugees to become a fighting force and sending supplies over the border to beleaguered Syrian Kurdish towns.  Apparently Talabani’s party, the PUK, may have started doing the same thing.

And the PUK seems well aware of Barzani’s ambitions to spread his influence among Syria’s Kurds. Which is why it’s probably no coincidence that when a bribery scandal around the November 2011 conference, during which the Kurdish National Council was formed, broke, it was because of statements made by the only politician to have refused the bribe of US$10,000 per politician that the KDP was offering. That was Hamid Haji Darwesh, leader of the Kurdish Democratic Progressive Party, which is close to the PUK. The Kurdish Democratic Progressive Party is also known to be close to Syria’s PYD.

And it seems the PUK has also been in independent talks with the Syrian Kurdish PYD. An indication of this may be some telling comments made by Kurdish Freedom Party leader, Mustapha Jumma, in an interview earlier this year. He talked about how the heads of two other parties, both members of the Kurdish National Council, had gone to meet with the military commanders of the PYD in their security stronghold, the Qandil mountains.  Jumma said he had no idea why they went or what they talked about and that he had only learned of the visit through the media. The two politicians were not members of the official committee set up within the Kurdish National Council to mediate with the PYD either, he said.

So speculators have suggested that those two parties, backed by the PUK, basically went to see the Syrian Kurds, not on behalf of the Kurdish National Council but on behalf of the PUK.

Also worth noting, recently members of the Syrian Kurdish parties sponsored by the PUK joined the security forces being run in Syria by the PYD. Some believe that, while the rivalry between the PUK and KDP remains fairly low key in everyday Iraqi Kurdistan, this move – with PUK-sponsored-members joining the PYD’s militia – might allow the rivalry to become an armed one in Syrian Kurdistan.

The upshot of all of the above: battle lines, whether in terms of physical violence or political influence, are being drawn.  As one local in Sulaymaniyah says, “it’s not just a war against the Arabs in Syria that is being threatened. There is also the danger of war between the Kurds, with various factions fighting for power.”

Content compiled & taken from Van Wilgenburg blog / Transnational Middle East Observer