US general visit to Syrian Kurds will not change much: analysts


General Joseph Votel. File photo

ARA News 

QAMISHLO – The US CENTCOM commander, General Joseph Votel, visited the Kurdish areas of Syria last Saturday and met with officials of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to coordinate future operations against the extremist group of Islamic State (ISIS) in Raqqa. However, analysts suggest that this would not result in a political recognition to the Kurdish-led administration in northern Syria.

Speaking to ARA News, Army Captain Michael Meyer, a spokesman for US-CENTCOM, said: “We can confirm that GEN Votel’s visit to Syria is complete and that he did meet with US military advisors working with Syrian Arab fighters and with leaders of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces. We have nothing else to provide.”

The Democratic Union Party (PYD) saw the visit as not very surprising.

“The envoy of the US president Brett Mcgurk visited us before, and meetings were held in Washington, and in the White House, between US officials and a Kurdish delegation that included Ilham Ahmed, co-chair of the Syrian Democratic Council, and Sinem Mohammed, representative of the Rojava Auto-Administration abroad,” Nawaf Xelil, the head of the Centre of Kurdish studies in Germany, and former PYD member told ARA News.

“This falls in the frame of strategic partnership to fight terrorism, so it’s normal that the relation developed on the militady and political levels, and it will enhance the gains [of the SDF] in Rojava, reaching to all of northern Syria, and then the rest of Syria,” he added.

“The SDF forces containing Arab, Kurds, Turkmen and Christians will form the nucleus of the future Syrian army after the fall of the regime, and will be part of a sustainable settlement under international observation, and will not rely on armed groups with different names that are not less criminal that the current fascist regime,” Xelil said.

According to Dov Friedman, the director of Middle East Petroleum, Votel’s visit to Rojava will not result in more political recognition of the local administration set up by Kurds in Syria.

“I don’t think the commander’s military-oriented visit changes the interest in greater political recognition or its timeline. The morale of local fighters and U.S. advisers in the fight against ISIS is paramount,” Friedman told ARA News. 

“When the U.S. wants to deliver a political message, it has sent political emissaries–as with Brett McGurk’s recent visit to Rojava. Efforts to include the PYD in Geneva [peace talks over Syria] and to engage Turkey intensively on a more sustainable relationship with Rojava will signal increased U.S. emphasis on Syrian Kurdish political recognition,” he added.

Dr David Romano, chair of Middle East politics at Missouri State University, agreed with Friedman that not much would change, in terms of political recognition.

“I doubt the Americans will recognize federalism in northern Syria any time soon. The political price for doing so vis-a-vis Turkey and other Syrian opposition groups would be high (assuming both of these continue to reject the idea) with no off-setting gains,” he said.

“Washington also remains loathe of being seen to be interfering in the domestic politics of Middle Eastern states or siding too much with non-Arab groups like the Kurds. At least the YPG and SDF can continue to expect military support from the U.S., at least for as long as ISIS controls territory in Syria,” Romano added.

Faysal Itani, a Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, told ARA News that US just want to use the Kurds to fight against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS. 

“The reason is the US has a Syria policy and an ISIS policy, and they’re not the same thing. The US is not interested in involving itself in Syria’s future and the Kurds’ place in it. This is too politically and strategically messy. They are just interested in the Kurds’ military utility against ISIS,” Itani concluded.

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg 

Source: ARA News 

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