MESOP NEWS BACKGROUNDER: YPG (PKK/PYD) AFTER KICKED OFF BY PUTIN – NOW THE OTHER WAY ROUND AGAINST ASSAD’S ARMY
RUDAW – 16 June 2017 – ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) remains in control of Kurdish areas of Aleppo amid a tenuous relationship with Damascus.
The fight for Aleppo was center-stage of the Syrian conflict for more than six years. Many parties were involved: the Syrian regime’s army, Free Syrian Army, militias allied with Iran and Syrian President Assad, Russia, Hezbollah, and the Kurdish YPG. Each of these parties wanted to leave their mark on Aleppo, but the battle ended in favor of the Syrian regime on December 22, 2016.
The YPG, however, has remained in control of the neighborhoods of Sheikh Maqsoud and Ashrafia, which are predominantly Kurdish. The Kurdish armed force has been accused by the Syrian opposition of supporting the Syrian regime.
After the end of the battle for Aleppo, allegations emerged that the Syrian regime had asked the YPG to leave Sheikh Maqsoud and Ashrafia. An officer in the Syrian army has now denied this.
“The People’s Protection Units (YPG) fought in this city to support the Syrian government against terrorist groups and are now protecting the security of areas like Sheikh Maqsoud and Ashrafia in coordination with the Syrian army,” Major General Ali Maqsud told Rudaw.
“The government has no intention to distance these forces because they made sacrifices to protect the area against terrorists,” he added.
A Kurdish politician has also confirmed that the YPG has not been asked to leave Aleppo.
“The Syrian regime has submitted no official requests to the YPG to withdraw from the Kurdish areas of Aleppo. Although there is such kind of allegation, this force will not pull out even if the allegation is true for this force is independent and doesn’t take orders from the Syrian government,” Salih Gado, secretary of the Kurdish democratic leftist party in Syria, a participant in the Rojava administration, told Rudaw.
According to information obtained by Rudaw, in response to a potential expulsion of its forces in Aleppo, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the ruling political party in Rojava, threatened the Syrian regime that it will remove the security square in Qamishli and Hasaka where the regime’s security and intelligence establishments are based.
Damascus maintains a small presence in Kurdish territory in the north of Syria, in the cities of Qamishli and Hasaka.
“The People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Kurds believe that removing the security square will not be in favor of the Kurds. There is an airport there that serves civilians. Many people there are getting their salaries from the government. This security square is only symbolic,” Gado said.
Regional and international parties are playing important roles in the Syrian struggle. The YPG is the armed wing of the PYD and is currently being armed by the US government. The YPG makes up the bulk of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) who are leading the offensive to oust ISIS from Raqqa with the support of the US-led coalition.
“America lost all its allies in Syria. It takes the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to be the only real fighting forces to counter terrorism. That is why the US is in great need of this force,” Major General Maqsud said.
Speaking of PYD policies, he said: “This party doesn’t put all its eggs in one basket. It deals with all parties. Its associations with the US don’t mean it has turned its back on the Syrian government or army. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) handed over border areas to the Syrian army’s border patrol forces when they controlled the city of Manbij and five other areas.”
In March, the SDF handed control of a few villages over to Damascus forces west of Manbij to act as a buffer between the Kurdish forces and Free Syrian Army forces backed by Turkey who had launched attacks on the Kurds.
The Syrian army has also armed the Kurdish force, the major general claimed. “When ISIS attacked Hasaka, the Syrian army gave many weapons to the YPG and still continues its military support to this entire force.”
Gado, however, denied that the YPG receives assistance from the Syrian regime. “Syria has in no way supported the YPG. It is America that supports them. And the Syrian regime is opposed to this and upset by the Kurdish forces’ alliance with America and coalition forces.”
The PYD formed an administration to run Rojava in coordination with some parties in northern Syria after the Syrian army withdrew from the area.
The administration consists of three cantons: Kobanî, Afrin and Cizre. The Syrian government hasn’t yet recognized this administration and still pays salaries of the employees of these areas. Furthermore, Syria’s security and intelligence agencies remain in Qamishli.
The Syrian regime is ready to speak with the Rojava administration, however, according to Major General Maqsud. “The Syrian government is prepared to discuss the Kurdish question and all the other proposed projects including the project of autonomy. There will be no problems if all the questions are discussed within the framework of a united Syria and its constitution which is approved by the majority of the Syrians.”
There are two councils in Rojava at the moment: the Nation’s Council which is affiliated with the PYD and The Kurdish National Council in Syria (ENKS) which incorporates some parties of Rojava. The administration is run by the Nation’s Council. The PYD has deprived the other council of power because ENKS doesn’t want to be associated with the Nation’s Council. Damascus wants the parties to come together before entering into any agreements with Kurds, however.
“The PYD doesn’t represent all Kurds. If all Kurdish representatives agree on a project, it will be discussed so a suitable solution is found within the framework of Syria’s territorial and national integrity,” Major General Maqsud said. www.mesop.de