Freitag, 23.02.2018 / 20:56 Uhr

Reise durch den Jazeera Kanton

Thomas von der Osten-Sacken

Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, ein Kenner der Jihadistenszene in Syrien und dem Irak, bereiste im Januar den Kanton Jazeera in Syrisch-Kurdistan und hat jetzt eine längere Reportage veröffentlicht, die äußerst lesenswert ist, weil sie sich so wohltuend von sonstigen Rojava-Berichten unterscheidet und auf jede Apologetik verzichtet. Zugleich verdammt Tamimi die punktuelle Zusammenarbeit der PYD mit syrischen Behörden nicht und versucht, so unparteilich wie möglich von vor Ort zu informieren.

Hier ein Teil seines  Resümees:

The idea of pursuing regime change through a presence in the SDF areas is unrealistic.

Considering the U.S. presence in the SDF-held areas, an immediate question arises as to whether the U.S. can achieve its stated objectives. The answer is only partially in the affirmative. Preventing a resurgence of the Islamic State is a reasonable goal, but it is hard to see how the mission as currently defined counters Iranian influence and can lead to a transition in the centre away from Assad. Indeed, the regime still has a presence within Qamishli and Hasakah cities, and it cannot be said that this presence is merely symbolic.

In fact, when this author asked on multiple occasions why the SDF does not simply expel the regime from these areas, it was pointed out that such actions would notably lead to the closure of Qamishli airport, which needs to be kept open for multiple reasons. For instance, the airport is crucial for supply of medicines to the Jazeera canton. In addition, residents use the airport for convenience of travel to places like Damascus, where they might study at the university or seek better quality treatment in hospitals. In a similar vein, the regime’s presence in the provincial capital of Hasakah has to be tolerated in order for residents to carry out certain proceedings that cannot be managed by the Autonomous Administration, such as obtaining passports.

In the end, the SDF has proven to be a valuable ally for the U.S. in the fight against the Islamic State and does not deserve to be abandoned.

To be sure, conceptions of the Autonomous Administration as a parasitic entity mostly being financed by the regime are outdated at best and misleading at worst. Further, it is inaccurate to characterize the Autonomous Administration and the political powers behind it as somehow being part of the Iranian-led ‘resistance’ axis. Indeed, dislike of Iran was very apparent to this author from interviewees such as the YPG spokesman[43] and the joint public relations director for TEV-DEM, the latter of whom characterized Iran as “constituting the other face for the Dawa’esh…the Shi’i face of the Islamic Caliphate.”[44] However, the fact that the regime still controls Qamishli airport with a Hezbollah presence in the airport area is an obvious obstacle to notions of countering Iranian influence.

In a similar vein, the idea of pursuing regime change through a presence in the SDF areas is unrealistic. Whatever lofty notions one might have of the SDF areas as a democratic example for the rest of Syria, the reality is that the central conflict in the civil war has already been resolved. The nature of the regime’s presence in Qamishli and Hasakah, together with the Autonomous Administration’s own governing ideology, demonstrates that the SDF areas cannot be divorced entirely from the centre of power in Syria. (...)

However, simply withdrawing from the SDF-held areas is also not a viable option. In such a scenario, these areas will likely be exposed to attacks from Turkey on one front and the regime and its allies on another front. The fear of this outcome was noted by interviewees, and there is the risk of the creation of a new vacuum that the Islamic State can exploit. This does not necessarily mean that the Islamic State will rise again to its 2014-2015 levels of territorial control and influence in Iraq and Syria, but it still makes sense to avoid the risk of a new vacuum and prevent a resurgence for the organization that can allow it to bolster its claims of being a state project.

Ensuring the preservation of the SDF-held areas is in itself a worthy goal. In the end, the SDF has proven to be a valuable ally for the U.S. in the fight against the Islamic State and does not deserve to be abandoned. Thus, policy should be oriented towards making these areas more economically viable and giving them a strong enough negotiating position to reach a formal status agreement with the centre of power in Syria. In this regard, the U.S. cannot simply ignore the problem of Turkey. Whatever one’s views of the Turkish government, the reality is that Turkey controls most of the SDF-held areas’ borders with the outside world. If these borders were to be opened, there would be significantly more economic activity that could reduce the need for business dealings with regime-held areas of Syria and improve the overall lot of the SDF-held areas. For instance, an opening of the borders could allow for importing medicines without reliance on Qamishli airport.