Can Syria Be Whole Again?
By Lyndsey Cole
In a plan to formalize the semi-autonomous zone established during five years of war, the Syrian Kurds are looking to create a federal region across northern Syria. This would be the first step in creating a model of decentralized government across the country.
The Syrian Democratic Peace Forces, Turkey, Iraq, and Iran all oppose the move for a Kurdish region, according to the New York Times. However, the United States Secretary of State John Kerry, along with other Obama administration officials, have spoken in support of the plan.
The Guardian reported that Kerry believed partition was a viable back up plan for peace if the Syrian ceasefire failed. He told the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee that, “It may be too late to keep it as a whole Syria if we wait much longer.”
March 27 marks one month since the ceasefire, a collaboration between the U.S. and Russia, began. “A drastic decrease in violence and increase in humanitarian aid was reported. However, there are doubts that the peace will last due to the close relationships of the terrorist groups with official forces. This establishes the need for partition,” Secretary Kerry said.
Mikhail Bogdanov, a deputy foreign minister of Russia, said that, “It is up to them [Syria] to decide such things,” according to Russia Today. He said that Russia’s best course is for Syria to remain whole. The Syrian government agreed, fearing that a change will force the Assad regime to step down. During the Geneva talks, some Syrians have said that they will not speak with anyone who suggests that Assad should step down.
Russia’s disapproval of the partition plan comes as a surprise to many after long standing rumors that Russia supports Syrian federalization. As early as October 2015, The New York Times reported these rumors, saying that Russian strikes in Syria were aimed at securing particular regions and leaving others open to nationalist groups, like the Kurds in the north.
Some suspect that the partition plan is a Russian idea, and the United States is simply following along. It is also uncertain how the recent withdrawal of Russian forces will affect the ceasefire.
Al Jazeera reports that Moshe Yaalon, the defense minister of Israel, spoke out in support of partition. Israel doubts that the ceasefire will have any lasting impact and predicts that Syria, instead of unifying, will eventually be controlled by a series of de-facto sects with boundaries drawn along ethnic and religious lines. Yaalon said that supporting cooperation among these sects through official partition is the only way to attain lasting peace.