Syrian Kurds Divided on Relations With Iraqi Kurds


By Wladimir van Wilgenburg – ARA News – 2016-05-24 – Two major Kurdish parties, the Change Movement (Gorran) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) reached an agreement on May 17, in order to counterbalance the dominance of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in Iraqi Kurdistan. The Syrian Kurdish parties are divided on the issue, depending on their political affiliations.

The Syrian Kurdish parties united in the Kurdish National Council (KNC) backed by the KDP reject the agreement, while the local Auto-Administration set up by the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and it’s allies support the agreement. “On the level of Kurdistan, we support legitimate movements of our people in other parts of Kurdistan to achieve their rights,” the agreement said about Kurds living in other countries.

The KNC parties want to have a strong role for Masoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdistan Region and KDP-leader, while the PYD wants a weaker role for the KDP, who they blame for closing the border between the Syrian Kurdistan [Rojava] and Iraqi Kurdistan.”Mr. Barzani is the most important person for the Kurdish issue in this sensitive period, and the PUK and Gorran are against this and they are against the future of the Kurds,” Mohammed Ismail, an official of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Syria (KDP-S) told ARA News. “We in the KNC worry about this agreement,” he added.

“This agreement is supported by Iran to make the problems bigger, and to stop the independence referendum [of Iraqi Kurdistan],” he said.Moreover, the KNC-parties want the KDP and PUK to work together in northern Iraq, instead of competing with each other.

“We don’t trust this man [Nawshirwan Mustafa, the leader of Gorran] and they are going to destroy the strategic agreement between the KDP and PUK,” Majdal Delli, a member of the Kurdish Unity Party, told ARA News. “The Gorran party belongs to the Iranian axis,” he added.

The KDP evicted Gorran from the government in October 2015, after Gorran did not back extending the presidency of Masoud Bargain when his term expired for the second time in August 2015. Since then, Iraqi Kurdistan has been facing a political paralysis, while the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS) radical group continued in the region. Gorran prefers a parliamentary system to a presidential one, and now also has the support from the PUK for this system. The PYD backs the agreement because it would limit the power of Barzani in the administration and empower the Kurdish parliament over the presidency. The PUK and Gorran want to limit the power of Barzani and the KDP. This would also decrease the influence of Turkey over the Iraqi Kurds. Turkey opposes the PYD for it’s links to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), and thus closed all its borders with Rojava.

“When the two Kurdish parties come close to each other, its very good,” said Amjad Othman, leader of the Kurdish Reform Party, an independent party not backed by the KDP. “We hope this agreement will help the Kurdish parties in Kurdistan and will be positive for the relationship between the Kurdish parties,” he told ARA News.

Especially the PYD hopes the agreement will make the KDP weaker, and open the road to reopening the border between Syrian Kurdistan and Iraqi Kurdistan and improve relations between the Kurdish administrations in Syria and Iraq.”We want this agreement to solve the crisis in the Kurdistan region, and also put limits on the actions of the KDP, especially their hostile policies towards Rojava, and the closing of the border between Basur [Iraqi Kurdistan] and Rojava [Syrian Kurdistan], and they want to show that this is the KRG policy, but it’s party politics, and it does not represent all parties, only KDP,” said Sherzad Yazidi, representative of the PYD-led Rojava administration.

Also, the Kurdish Democratic Left Party in Syria, an ally of the PYD, described the agreement as a victory. “The Kurds in Rojava and all Kurdish national forces praise and support this agreement, and look forward to enhance it,” the party said in a public statement.Speaking to ARA News, PYD official Shank Dibo said: “We see the declaration of the strategic agreement between Gorran and the PUK a step in the right way, and as solving the crisis and lack of law which Iraqi Kurdistan region live.””We wish this agreement would receive the support from all Kurdish parties in Iraq, and we ask all of them to join this agreement,” he said. The different positions of the Syrian Kurdish power blocs on the agreement show the divisions between the Kurdish parties in Syria. While the KNC accuses the PYD of working with Iran, the PYD accuses the KNC of working with Turkey. So far, the two sides have not been able to share power in northern Syria, and have been working against each other after the failure of the Duhok agreement in October 2014.

Michael Stephens, head of the RUSI think-tank, told ARA News that there are little signs that relations will improve between the KDP and the PYD.

“There appears to be little appetite on either side to rectify the tension at the current time, which is I think a reflection of the PYD’s overconfidence in its strategic position, and the inability of the KRG [KDP] to come to terms with a rival Kurdish party that has assumed territorial control in historic Kurdish lands,” he said.