(Photo credit: AFP)
Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar reported on 17 January that a Kurdish delegation representing the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) visited Syria’s capital Damascus today, to engage in dialogue with the Syrian government in light of the potential Syrian-Turkish rapprochement.
According to the report, the SDF “welcomed” Damascus’ insistence that the rapprochement not officially begin until Turkiye guarantees its intention to withdraw from Syria. Quoting the head of the Kurdish Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) foreign relations office, Badran Jia Kurd, who led the delegation, it has a priority “to develop Syrian-Syrian dialogue as an ideal path to a political solution.”
At the same time, however, in continuation of its attempt to foil any chance of Syrian-Turkish reconciliation, Washington is now trying to, in a sense, reform and restructure the Kurdish organization to make it more acceptable to Ankara.
A 12 January report released by Al-Akhbar stated that in an attempt to do this, the US has asked the SDF to disassociate from Turkiye’s sworn foe, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), and clear Raqqa and Deir Ezzor of Kurdish militants so that they could be overseen by ‘local councils’ made up of Arabs.
It is worth noting that the Kurds have expressed reluctance over this US project and have said that despite being willing to negotiate, they cannot accept to make such large concessions.
Proceeding with this plan, the US is currently recruiting Arab fighters to eventually incorporate into the SDF, thereby working to make it somewhat more acceptable to Turkiye. These Arab fighters are being recruited into the Raqqa Revolutionary Brigade (Liwa Thuwwar al-Raqqa), the revived version of a former extremist faction which was allied to Jabhat al-Nusra in 2012, and then fought ISIS alongside the SDF from 2015 to 2018 under US sponsorship before a dispute saw them break apart.
Having been inactive for a few years, Al-Akhbar reported on 20 December 2022 that Washington has brought this group into action once again, given it the capacity to recruit fighters, and promised its members monthly salaries. Later reports claimed that the US has already begun making payments to the Raqqa Brigade, which it hopes can remerge with the SDF at some point.
Today, Al-Akhbar reports that the Raqqa Brigade is coordinating with the Syrian National Alliance (SNA), a New York-based opposition group made up of Syrian exiles, which is supposed to make up the brigade’s political wing.
However, as Washington scrambles to forge together alliances in an attempt to keep Turkiye and the SDF away from Damascus and closer to each other, the Kurds have expressed wariness over these efforts.
“This vision cannot be viewed positively, given the difficulty of persuading Turkiye to end hostility towards the Kurds in general … the most appropriate solution for the region lies with Damascus,” Kurdish sources close to the SDF have said.
In other news, the armed opposition’s leading faction, the extremist, former Al-Qaeda affiliate, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), has continued to voice its complete rejection of Ankara’s diplomatic turnaround and is currently mobilizing heavy reinforcements.