“Our Strategic Allies are the Global Democratic Forces” said Riza Altun
Evaluating the invasion attempt on the Kurdish region Afrin in North Syria, KCK (Kurdistan Communities Union) Executive Committee member Riza Altun remarked that they continue their struggle within their own lines without depending on any other forces. He stated that their main allies are democratic forces around the world.
On 27 January 2018, Riza Altun made assessments to Firat News Agency ANF about the Turkish state’s invasion attempt on Afrin. He analyses the interests and attitudes of the hegemonic powers actors like Russia and the USA in Syria, as well as the stance of the Kurdish Freedom Movement:
“The situation of Syria should be understood very well, especially concerning the administration in Damascus. For 5-6 years Syria has been is in an intense and serious war. As the Syrian administration became unable to stand on its own feet, this situation changed with the presence of Iran, Iranian-backed Hezbollah, and especially Russia. The current regime is nevertheless sustained by those main powers. Among them, Russia plays a significant role as an international power. It is Russia’s strategy to sustain the regime in Damascus, avoid its fall and even to keep it as a power option for the future. Therefore, the Syrian regime does not have the capability of acting independently by itself.”
This could be questioned: It is still unclear what Syria’s real approach is to the existing alliance between Turkey and Russia. This is a matter of debate. However, this is certain: Russia did not develop this alliance without the knowledge of the Syrian regime.
The Actual Matter is Russia’s Hegemony in Syria
Russia’s policy on Syria is to maintain the Assad regime, in other words protecting the nation-state system in Syria, and in this context, maintain its long-standing strategic bases within Syria. Hereby they want to become a hegemonic power that designs policy in the Middle East. Therefore it is important to Russia to maintain the regime in Syria, but this approach actually transcends Assad. The necessary matter is the domination and hegemony of Russia itself in Syria. It acts with this perspective. Then it becomes a force in Syria and turns this into hegemonic power in the Middle East. Russia’s political approach towards Syria is pragmatic. It plays on regional rivalry, and finds opportunities to play with international contradictions. Russia has been following such a policy since its presence in Syria.
Russia Wants to Integrate the Kurds in the Syrian Regime
Looking at the issue of relations with the Kurds and especially with the YPG (People’s Defence Units): Since Russia has come in, it has been trying to integrate the Kurds, the Kurdish Freedom Movement, and the whole struggle developed by the Kurds in Syria, into the predetermined order; a policy like sacrificing them to the system. But the YPG’s principled attitude and libertarian approach has been so clear that no results could be obtained in this regard. However, after the elimination of ISIS, Russia gained a new position; both in the heat of international contradictions and in the developments in Syria into an increasingly political status. This, in turn, switched the daily policies of integrating the Kurds into Syria, towards condemning them to the most difficult and insufferable situations. That took Russia to the point of associating with Turkey. Associating with Turkey offered Russia some economical advantages, and also provided a trump card to use Turkey in international contradictions and to limit the progress of the Kurdish efforts to self administration. By using this trump card, Russia intents to determine the future power within Syria. Through this, Russia is also striving to strengthen its position and weakening Iranian influence in the Middle East.
Syria Could be Divided
Afrin has come on the agenda for these reasons,however this is a very dangerous policy. The way Turkey is being used is the attempt of turning Turkey into Russia’s backup power. Using Turkey as a tactical tool against the Syrian and Iranian regime may be attractive for a hegemonic power, but in the long-term it means opening up a path of politics that can deepen the chaos and gradually lead to the division of Syria.
If the current policies will continue, it should not be forgotten that they will cause a division especially between the Eastern and Western areas of the Euphrates. This division could lead to a political and military development that may result in division of Syria into three or four parts. Russia has taken a very dangerous position in this regard.
Russia’s Alliance with Turkey
If we want to understand this alliance, first of all we need to know that Russia uses Turkey to ensure international advantages by using Turkey’s contradictory position inside NATO and in their relations with the Western Block. Secondly; in order to become a more effective and dominant power against Iran, Hezbollah, and a Syrian regime that may arise, Russia uses its contacts with Turkey. Thirdly, Russia has a policy in which they want to widen their hegemony by limiting the freedom and democracy demands of the Kurds and other peoples as much as possible. For that reason they also prefer a predominantly centralized nation state and a totalitarian regime rather than a democratic. This is the approach of Russia and if they pursue this approach they will face serious consequences.
USA Follows One-Day Policies
In fact, the position of the USA is not very different. In this matter, wrong perceptions and evaluations are being made by the public. Right from the beginning there has been a certain policy held by the USA towards the Middle East and this has become obvious in its approach towards Rojava and Syria. Up until now, these policies were centred on ISIS. The USA reveals its truth with one-day policies. There is the problem with ISIS in Iraq, and based on this there is also a problem in Southern Kurdistan and also in Rojava. ISIS is a problem in the Middle East, the USA continuously have shown an approach based on ISIS. It is not clear what they strategically do. They only react on certain occurrences. This is a very self-centred and pragmatic approach. Their approach on Rojava is the same. The USA noticed that the Kurds advanced the struggle against ISIS. Therefore they developed their cooperation with the PYD (Democratic Union Party) and with the QSD (Syrian Democratic Forces). It was the best way for them to gain prestige in the fight against ISIS. But when we think in terms of the strategic and tactical dimensions of these relations, it is not possible for the USA to have a strategic relation with the PYD and QSD.
But there is no attitude towards how these relations are handled in terms of a political solution of the Syrian issue. In fact, the USA is in a position of denial in this respect. Despite leading Geneva negotiations, the block represented by the USA, and the USA itself, do not invite the YPG which is a leading movement of the Kurds. The question is: Why do they not approve YPG, that has been their main tactical contact in fighting ISIS, as a political power in Geneva and towards a solution of the Syrian issue?
Consent between Russia and the USA concerning Turkey’s intervention in Afrin
That means that some conjectural tactical connections have been made, mutual concessions and compromises have been done, and there are mutual interests. But we are talking about a level of relationship in which it is absolutely impossible to establish a strategic relationship in terms of a political project. When we talk about this relationship, then such a situation reveals that the USA has not abandoned its former relations. Despite Turkey’s aggressive, insulting approaches and threats, a globally hegemonic state like the USA remains silent. This shows us is that they aim for a strategy based on the regional states.
Their presence in Syria and Rojava could be assessed as follows: their existence in Syria will be permanent, however, wishing to maintain their presence tactically in relation with YPG and QSD. However one can easily understand that their strategy towards the actual conflict solution is sought within the scope of international relations and the order of the regional states.
Although at this moment a process towards a political solution in Syria has started to develop, no political solution can be put forward neither by Russia nor by the USA. Their envisaged projects only stir trouble and also feed instigative dimension for the war. For this reason, I think there is a consent between Russia and the USA concerning Russia’s current contact with Turkey and Turkey’s intervention in Afrin. I do not think Turkey acted without the knowledge of the USA. We can say this easily, especially when we consider the provoking position of the USA, which has emerged in this issue. The USA almost invited Turkey to Afrin by announcing that “Afrin is out of our operation zone, we will not intervene”, and shortly after the Afrin operation begun. That is to say there has been a very immoral approach.
By stating ‘Afrin is out of our operation zone’, in spite of the 2-3 thousand of QSD forces that before came from Afrin to Raqqa and Dêrazor [for fighting against ISIS], in spite of them fighting together during the Raqqa operation, they are actually approving Russia’s policy and Turkey’s intervention. Even though there are different discourses, they certainly are in collusion. Just as Russia has always wanted to integrate the Kurds to the regime, and pursued a policy based on eliminating PKK and YPG, the same situation is valid for the USA. While the USA communicates with the YPG, they try to gain influence over them. The USA carries out intense threats and blackmailing aiming at distorting the line of the YPG into a comparator, nation-state and nationalist line. Just as Russia does it. They do this more by questioning YPG’s relations with the PKK, by asking them to get in more in touch with Turkey, and so on; they try to divert the movement from its own line. This is the approach of both powers on which they base their policies.
The EU Approach Conforms with US Policy
What is the EU’s approach? As we see, the international coalition follows a policy of complying with the USA’s current attitude. None of the policies contradict at the moment. When we look at the EU, we see their approach overlaps the USA’s. No matter how single countries have different discourses, in essence, they have the same approaches. For example, Britain plays a very bad role in this regard. They are almost in a position that targets the Kurds and the YPG. Although taking part in the international coalition, despite the pursuing tactical relations with the YPG up till now, though executing war together with YPG against ISIS, they almost use expressions that are alike Turkey’s and legitimize Turkey’s occupation. This encourages Turkey. This conforms to the US policy. After Britain has acted like this, The Netherland’s statement is similar. The Netherlands say that they would ‘not have liked the YPG right from the start and therefore did not create any connection to them’. They lie. All of the international coalition forces have tactical relations with QSD. They all have negotiations and associations. Today such a statement means to pave the way for the operation against Afrin and to support an operation by Turkey in this regard. France and Germany seem as if they have different discourses, but in essence, they do not have an objection to Turkey. Instead they are only looking after their interests towards economics and arms trading. Especially what France does is very clear. Before, they made deals on missiles and economic treaties with Turkey and put billions of dollars in their pockets. Shortly after they created an image as if they would oppose Turkey’s operation, but then again covered it up by making explanations justifying Turkey. Although Germany has so many conflicts with Turkey by re-conducting their tank trades etc., they have revealed their attitude towards Turkey.
New Process of Imperialist Intervention in the Middle East Has Begun in Afrin
What is the result we will derive from here? The outcome is that first; with the defeat of ISIS in Syria, all conditions of the emergence of a truly democratic Syria have matured. However, if this is taken up with the right approaches of the regional and international powers, the war in Syria can be brought to an end and the emergence of a democratic Syria can certainly be ensured. But it has turned out that this is not wanted. Foremost this is not foreseen in Syria, and further this new process initiated in Syria will reflect across the Middle East. This is a new process in which new balances in the Middle East will be established, and everything will turn upside-down, again. And this process does not foresee a political solution towards problems in the Middle East. On the contrary it has to be considered as a process which is lead by states and which can become much more violent and severe compared to past. Russia with its dirtiest relations, the USA with its dirtiest representation, and their cogitative powers with their policies set up a new process. This is an intervention in the region by international imperialism. This intervention has certainly begun in Afrin within new conditions emerging in Syria. If they insist on this, the results are worth seeing for everyone.
While stating all of this it’s important not to confuse the stance of the public opinion and the people with that of the regional and international hegemonic powers. This is very important. For example, in America, in Europe, when we look at the present situation, the approach of the people and the public is more moral. Their approach to those who struggled for freedom in the Middle East is more ethical and principled. The same cannot be said for the states.
The Public Opinion and Hegemonic Powers Should not be Confused with Each Other
Secondly, the current situation is that the public opinion created by the previous struggles has revealed a positive approach by the press of these countries. While intellectuals, writers, illustrators, media, and public opinion are in a very positive way condemning and protesting Turkey’s fascism and occupation approaches to Afrin, giving great support and power to the Kurds on that topic, their states and governments are in a total opposite position. For this reason, it’s important that when assessing or describing the situation I have just explained, it’s also important to comprehend it correctly.
For example, a word often used in the media as a bona fide approach. It is said that ‘Kurds are again betrayed, the USA has betrayed Kurds again, and Russia has sold Kurds out.’ Those who use such statements and expressions either do not really know what kind of world we are living in, they do not know what kind of politics this world plays in the Middle East, they have no information about who the political actors in the Middle East are, or they just have a very well-intentioned and naive approach. This is not the right approach.
Neither Russia Nor the USA Can Sell the Kurds in Rojava!
First, we should make it clear that Russia has nothing to sell the Kurds out. Russia sells many things out, that’s right. There is nothing that Russia has not sold out. They sell everything out. When you pay attention, as a reaction to this critique, they say: ‘We have no debt to Kurds.’ That’s the kind of statement Russia makes. It’s true, when we look at the current existing political power in Russia, [due to their considerations] they have no debt, moral debt or obligation towards humanity. Selling everything out is its basic existence and main essence. But it is impossible for Russia to sell out the PKK and YPG. The PKK and the YPG are not in a condition to be sold out. We are neither on the same path nor the same ideological line and not in the same organizational struggle. In which way could they sell us out?! Russia sells itself, its people, and its morals. They sell those out, that’s true. But they can’t sell us out. On the contrary, Russia tries to appropriate the values created by Kurds and tries to offer them to the Baath regime by creating constant pressure and difficulties. Today, the same power provoked and invited Turkey to Syria. This is not a betrayal. This is only an expression of Russia’s interests. How moral, political, or humane it is I will leave to the conscience of others. In my opinion Russia should rather be criticized for its moral and political character than for betrayal.
Besides, the same is being said about the USA. It is said ‘the USA sold Kurds out.’ In which way could the USA sell Kurds out?! Kurds who are in a strategic relation with America could be sold out. If there are Kurds who attached their future to America, using the word “sold” would be true. Yet, in Rojava “selling out” is out of the question. Who will sell whom out, how? If we consider the USA’s ideological structure, political structure, strategic objectives by contrast with the YPG’s strategic, ideological goals, there is obviously no concept to create a future together here. Such a union is not a topic. What are their current relations? An imperialist power that seeks to establish a world system of its own, by appropriating the values emerged out of a people’s struggle for freedom. Already from the beginning, there was a hegemonic approach to this relationship. In addition, there has been a conflict and fight. This is what our struggle has been about. While this struggle is continuing, if it would have been so easy for America to gain influence [over the YPG] the USA would not have agreed with Russia and would not have invited Turkey back to Syria again. The USA would not have enforced Turkey despite all insults. What is the reason for doing this? The USA intend to put a great deal of pressure on the Kurds, to limit them, to cage them, and to market them as they desire.
They did this in Southern Kurdistan. Looking at the latest situation in the South, what has been done by the USA is betrayal. They highly betrayed the forces in the South. The outcome is that they were restricted, pacified in hands of the USA, and they can be marketed by everyone. The USA is trying to create a similar situation in Rojava. But Rojava is actively fighting against this and the USA could not succeed in reaching their aim. Therefore the USA contacted and allied with its international rival Russia on this topic; it uses also Turkey as a battering ram to beat the Kurds. Hereby the USA wants to force the debilitated Kurds to become dependent on them in order to convert Rojava into another South. This is the attitude of the USA, and the international relations of the United States are in parallel with this approach. The attitudes of other countries are also developing in this way. That’s why when we look at it this way, expressions like ‘Kurds have been betrayed, Kurds have been sold out’ are wrong. What do these expressions mean? It means expressing yourself by another force. It means giving the message of being another powers’ collaborator. However, we are fighting to prevent to this situation. This is not a new struggle. This is a struggle fought harshly in Rojava and in the Middle East.
The Freedom Struggle Has its Own Line
This is an anti-imperialist struggle. It is impossible for a power that leads an anti-imperialist fight to say that it would have been betrayed by an imperialist. During history, especially with World War I in mind, the Kurds have been confronted with this reality. If that what has been done to Kurds is called betrayal of the Kurds, it is clear that this betrayal continues today in an updated and multiplied way. Nothing changed. The freedom struggle is carried out to change this destiny. This freedom struggle to change the destiny emerges in the process as an ideological, political, and military formation with a new ideological, political, and organizational model and paradigm. Here it has its own line. As international imperialism and the regional hegemonic states represent their own line and strategic position, against this the paradigmatic stance created by the Kurds represents another line. The main allies of this line are the global democratic forces. They are the peoples’ forces. They are the forces against the system. Whether or not there will be a betrayal can only be conceived by developments in these areas.”
[The interview was published on 27 January 2018 at Firat News Agency ANF in Turkish language. Translation into English by IC Afrin Resistance]