We, supporters of Rojava, should be worried about its partnership with the United States.

We, supporters of Rojava, should be worried about its partnership with the United States.

This article covers the current military situation in Rojava. While the PYD and Syrian Democratic Party are getting closer and closer to United States some of the anarchists and anarchist-communists are happy with that. The article tries to bring the attention of those anarchists that the partnership between them is in the interest of US and its allies in Europe and the region . In the end, Rojava, might lose what it has been achieved so far.

We, supporters of Rojava, should be worried about its partnership with the United States
Zaher Baher
17th May 2017

The political and military balance in Syria is constantly changing. Relations between the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), co-founded by People’s Protection Units (YPG), and in turn Russia and US constantly ebb and flow. The dynamic behind these changes has very little to do with ISIS. In fact, it all depends on the respective interests of the great powers and their struggle against one another to establish predominant power there.

The past year has seen a steady erosion of the US position in Syria vis-à-vis Russia, who has since overtaken it. Russia’s heavy involvement in Syria and becoming a major ally with Turkey has changed many things. The relative inactivity of the USA has given the opportunity to Russia, Turkey and Iran to play a significant role in making decisions there.

Under Trump’s new administration this has changed somewhat. He probably has a different approach to Syria. While US still is one of the major powers in the world, it cannot sit and do nothing in the region especially in Syria.

After a long pause, Trump has decided to ally with SDF against ISIS to defeat them in Raqqa regardless of Turkey’s position and reaction. Trump has now approved a deal to supply arms including heavy weapons to SDF directly, seeing them as the most effective and reliable force especially after the SDF capture of Tabqa City from ISIS. The US administration is at present more than any other time determined in recapturing Raqqa, the ISIS de facto capital. It is now quite clear that the US administration and SDF and the People’s Democratic Party (PYD) are getting very close to one another to the point that SDF strife to achieve what the US wants to achieve, even though this can be at the expenses of what have been achieved so far in Rojava.

We supporters of Rojava should be very worried about the current development in relation to Democratic Self-administration and the Movement of Society (Tev-Dem). We should be concerned because of the following consequences:

First: It is a matter of influence for the US while seeing that Russia almost controlled the situation and managed to take Turkey onto its own side. US wants to be very active before losing its power there. It wants to play the major role and achieve its own goal, this can be only done through SDF and PYD. There is no doubt that the US is more concerned about its own interests rather than Kurdish interests in Rojava.

Second: To contain SDF and PYD, to make them a tool by using them for their own interest. This is the best way to make PYD and SDF lose their credibility in Syria, the region, Europe and elsewhere.

Third: The current attitude of the US towards Rojava and arming SDF directly might be an effort to cut them off from PKK and decrease PKK influence over developments in Rojava.

Fourth: There is no doubt that whatever happens will now make Turkey more furious against both YPG and PKK. This could create a greater backlash from Turkey. It may repeat last month’s military operations against YPG or even extend these military operations into Rojava and against YPG & PKK in Shangal, in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Fifth: With Russia’s displeasure against the SDF and PYD, Assad could be influenced to change Syria’s attitude towards them in the future if not now. If Rojava had chosen the Russian side instead of USA, it could have been much better because Russia is more reliable as an ally than the US. It looks like Assad will stay in power after the defeat of ISIS. Assad normally listens to Russia very diligently. In this case, there was a greater chance under pressure of Russia that Assad would have let Rojava pursue a better future than what US and Western countries may decide for them.

Sixth: Intensifying and prolonging the current war causing Rojava a great deal of dislocation. Continuation of the war costs SDF so many lives and makes them weaker and weaker. The stronger and the bigger the size of SDF in Rojava is, the more it must necessarily be dependent on one of the major power, in the meantime Rojava will be weaker. The more SDF achieves militarily, the more socially and economically can actually be lost in Rojava. The more powerful SDF and PYD become, the less power the local self-administration and Tev-Dem will have. The number of SDF fighters alone is estimated to be 50,000. Just imagine even 10.000 instead of working militarily, working in the fields and cooperatives or building school, hospitals, parks and houses, by now Rojava would have been somewhere else.

Seventh: Often I have mentioned in my articles that a successful Rojava – successful in the way we were hopping – depended on a couple of factors or as a minimum one to preserve the experiment. One was expanding Rojava’s movement at least to a couple of more countries in the region. The other factor was international solidarity. However, neither happened. If one thing can now preserve Rojava, it is ISIS and the opposition forces in Syria holding out against the odds. In short only a prolonged anti-ISIS military campaign can preserve Rojava.

In my opinion after defeating ISIS in Kobane’s region, YPG should have suspended it military operations except in self-defence of its establish perimeter. After defeating ISIS in Kobane region and the greater intervention of US and Russia, UPG and PYD should have withdrawn from the war. PYD should have dealt with the situation better and withdrawn from power for Tev-Dem and let the rest of the population to make their own decisions about peace and war. Clearly the current nature, direction and the potential course of the present war in Rojava has completely changed. It is a war of the major powers, European governments and the regional governments over securing interests and sharing domination.

The situation at the moment looks very grim. It appears that once ISIS has been defeated in Mosul and Raqqa then more than likely war will start involving Rojava and PKK in Qandil and Shangal. These calculation are being made by Barzani, head of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Turkey and perhaps also Iran and Iraq with the blessing of the US, Russia and Germany. Such a war may start by the end of August or September after the military defeat of ISIS in Mosul and Reqqa.



May 18 2017 08:11

Now you should be worried?

How about 3 years ago when communists and anarchists were telling you that the YPG was allying with imperialist powers?

May 18 2017 08:57

'zaher' now offers themselves as a non-paid strategic and military adviser to the Syrian Kurdish regime and suggests Russia was the more likely ''reliable ally''! Can the weaker power ever have a reliable ''ally'' in the current regional and world inter-imperialist line-up. This text, the overestimation of the viability and potential of the Rojava experiment aside, shows some belated insight into the seriousness of the situation.

May 18 2017 12:21

Well those are a couple of shallow 'revolution as cosplay' reactions to a well thought out piece.

Rojava was never going to be Germany 1919, the bizarre insistence on reducing everything to the brief moment when what is now cosplay politics perhaps made some sense is useless.

In terms of those who stand in solidarity with the Rojava revolution its not news that this is happening between a rock and a hard place. I've yet to meet anyone from the various layers of the Kurdish freedom movement that is unaware of this or the realities of trying to make such a revolution in such hostile conditions. The ongoing assumption that those typing in London, Washington or Paris are imparting some deep revelation to those fighting to make the best of a tough situation elsewhere is an examination of the way colonialist ideology seeps into the general population including the left. The patronising attitude of the colonialist left towards the Kurdish left is widely joked about in a 'ha ha not really funny' way.

The answer to the difficult situation from the cosplay crowd is a typical colonialist left one, they should move to Paris or London and become real proletarians through working in car factories. Many things are missing from that calculation, not least that the proletarians already there are doing a no better job of making the revolution but also the barriers that exist to such a migration and the unlikllihood of finding a job on arrival in industries where robots are replacing workers.

There is also a lack of honesty explicit in this criticism of accepting guns from the Americans. The German revolution did not come from the moon, it was the off spring of the Russian revolution. And the Russian revolution very much involved the acceptance of imperalist aid, by the Bolsheviks, from Germany. And acceptable that had to come with the knowledge that German imperialism was a very temporary friend, delivering the aid purely because they hoped to create chaos and use that chaos for their own military gains. Presumably in 1918 our cosplay friends would have also been all 'I told you so' as the German and Austrian armies swept across Russia and Ukraine?

If the Russian revolution demonstrates anything it is that in reality those types will turn a blind eye to such compromises if the gamble works out. You'd actually be hard pressed to find examples of revolutions in history that were not dependent on foreign military support or weapons. Even the Spanish anarchists were dependent on Mexican arms and operated in a republic very reliant on Russian weapons, aircrew and other specialists. I think the Haitian revolution may have been an exception but only sort of as it was the offspring of the American and French revolutions which neutralised or at least limited the ability of both French and British imperialism to intervene.

The multiple attempts at revolution in Ireland 1798, 1803, 1848, 1876, 1916 and the final limited success of 1919-21 all had faiths tied to receiving weapons and other military support from powers that rivaled Britain. 1919-21 being a partial exception because of war exhaustion on the one hand, the Russian revolution on the other and perhaps more importantly the US government ignoring the enormous fundraising effort that was taking place in the Irish American community.

Today you can't make a revolution that pits rifles against MBTs and helicopter gunships which means if you are not in an imperialist heartland and capable of winning over a good chunk of your own military you are going to be playing a game of seeking my enemies enemy.


Angry reaction to the comments aside what of the point of Zaher's piece. It's correct in pointing out that the explicit militarisation over the last 3 years is not helping the revolution except in being essential to the physical survival off those trying to make it. Long military conflicts, even if successful, bring those who are good at fighting to the top in terms of influence. Probably the PYD are the most openly aware of those dangers of any movement I've seen - no doubt because of the tough lessons learned across the border. But can their counter measures stop the emergence of a Napoleon, Trotsky or Stalin? On a cynical level Ocalan probably plays the useful role of occupying the position of influence from a place where he can't exercise meaningful day to day power. If he wasn't there someone not spending a lifetime behind prison walls could have an opportunity.

I'm not inclined to agree that the Russia v America is much of a meaningful choice because Russia really needs Assad (or at least the regime) and probably hopes to use this crisis to break Turkey away from NATO. If anything it has less of a reason for a long term strategic alliance that the Americans. Keeping Turkey in NATO means its very hard to see any US military support outlasting the battle to capture Raqqa. Which means in 6 months or a year the best situation the YPG/SDF will face is being alone between Assad on the one side and Turkey on the other. Turkey is probably the greater threat as they can't defend themselves against the considerable airpower of Turkey which can essentially attack any part of Rojava without warning.

A Turkish victory might be a long and costly affair but the revolution would be rapidly reduced to trying to survive in rubble under any prolonged assault. The destruction of Kurdish towns and districts across the border in 2015/16 show that such a war from the Turkish side would be completely ruthless and ignored by the 'international community'.

Which really just leaves the difficult question of what can be done in the circumstances except for what is being done, using the SDF to extend the zone at least sympathetic to the revolution and playing the various powers against each other to obtain weaponry and other military support. I'm not sure Zaher's suggestion that once ISIS was expelled they should have switched to a defensive stance was an option given the hostility of Turkey and what now looks like the eventual recovery of the Assad regime. The only counter measure to both those military powers is to extend the revolution, to the rest of Syria on the one hand and across the border to Turkey on the other. Then odds of success are slim but that is probably the only chance there is.

Our cosplay friends have been telling people to flee the area as an alternative since the start of the revolution but even that act of giving up doesn't deliver safety when faced with the hostile European borders. A lot of Kurds have drowned in the last two years, perhaps more than have been killed by ISIS. A huge number are now trapped in the Turkish state and we've already seen a wave of anti-Kurdish pograms with the very real fear that those could generalise into a large scale massacre. The repression inside Turkey has been intense and widespread even if almost invisible because Turkey is part of NATO and policing the border crisis on behalf of the EU. The decision to stay and fight for revolution in the most difficult of circumstances probably makes more sense then it did a few years back, especially if the alternative - as it is for many - is a long spell in a Turkish prison, including the real possibility of being tortured and perhaps dying there.

May 18 2017 13:51

''extending the revolution'' yes certainly the only option - if there was a basis in the claimed ''Rojava Revolution'' for doing that in the first place which is doubtful. At least Andrew avoids playing the 'adviser' role.

May 18 2017 14:41
The answer to the difficult situation from the cosplay crowd is a typical colonialist left one, they should move to Paris or London and become real proletarians through working in car factories.

I've never seen anyone make such an idiotic statement on libcom (then again, I've not read everything about Rojava here). Has someone actually said this, or is this a nice little straw man? And you seem to not open for any other line than: complete support or colonialist. That is just weak and is, to some degree, a dishonest rhetorical trick.

Red Marriott
May 18 2017 17:40

Yes, Khawaga, and similarly this strawman;

AndF wrote:
The ongoing assumption that those typing in London, Washington or Paris are imparting some deep revelation to those fighting to make the best of a tough situation elsewhere is an examination of the way colonialist ideology seeps into the general population including the left.

Seems to me a complete strawman - unless Andrew F spends a surprising amount of time finding and engaging with people who talk such bollox. Whatever, even if someone somewhere has said that, that wouldn't explain why he's responding with this strawman here as it doesn't characterise responses of those here who don't agree with his Rojava views. Presumably it's just the cheap auto-pilot attempt to try to stereotype & discredit all who disagree with him.

May 18 2017 18:33

Yeah, and Andrew's post after his strawman is actually quite good; what he writes there are thoughts I've also been making about the current situation.

It is also frustrating to read this stuff because, as someone who is more of a fence sitter on Rojava (since it is hard for me to actually figure out heads from tails, though I am firmly in the anti-anti-imperialism camp), I just wish that either "side" don't jump to immediate conclusions or retort to idiotic straw men.

May 19 2017 09:25

I'm in a similar position to Khawaga, and I must say I find the overly defensive and subsequent ridiculous straw men generated by Rojava supporters very offputting (e.g. everyone who doesn't agree with me is a colonialist and a racist blah blah)

going back to the OP, I don't think allying with Russia would have been a preferable option. Apart from the fact that any criticisms of US intervention would be equally valid for Russia (for example, Russia could not give a shit about the Kurds, it is only forwarding its own imperialist interests), Turkey is more important ally for Russia, and allying formally with the YPG would screw that up

May 19 2017 17:34
Steven. wrote:
I'm in a similar position to Khawaga, and I must say I find the overly defensive and subsequent ridiculous straw men generated by Rojava supporters very offputting (e.g. everyone who doesn't agree with me is a colonialist and a racist blah blah)

a few years ago at the NYC anarchist book fair i heard a speaker declare in an aggressive tone that "it is obligatory for everyone on the left to support what is happening in rojava."

May 20 2017 05:04

This seems like a good place to put this and I don't have time to write an article at the moment. I was one of the protesters attacked in Washington, DC by Erdogan's bodyguards. Physically, I'm fine. I'm busy with a lot right now, as you can imagine. I probably won't be contributing in discussion on here on these topics with the depth I was doing earlier, for awhile.

I'm hoping to have a long interview published by France 24.

Was Erdogan personally involved in his bodyguards’ attacks on protesters in D.C.?

U.S. Citizens Want to Know if Erdogan Ordered Them Attacked at D.C. Protest

Solidarity protests against Erdogan are welcome.

Other people have suffered far more and risked far more than I have. I'm glad that I can contribute my little bit.

Chilli Sauce
May 19 2017 22:15

Jesus, Flint, glad you're okay. Solidary, yoldas.

May 19 2017 23:07

Damn, I am sorry to hear that, though glad you're safe.

Juan Conatz
May 20 2017 04:11

Yeah, I saw that Flint. Glad you're ok.

May 20 2017 04:57

Thank you all for your kind words.

I know sometimes conversations here get fierce.

May 20 2017 17:35

i saw the videos, horrifying stuff. very glad you and others are okay.

May 21 2017 02:25

Flint, all the best, solidarity. Glad you are fine now.

May 26 2017 13:03

Hi Bastarx,

That is not right comrade. 3 years ago when I was there the situation was very different from now. At least there was no war between Isis and YPG, Kobane war was no exist , the peace process between PKK and Turkey was still on and many more. However, if you read my initial report about Rojava , in the 2nd part under the title of ‘ expectation and fear’ in which I even showed my fear.
I thinks your comment very unfair comrade. I consider myself an anarchist, I therefore analysing any situation accordingly, not like the communists and Marxist to stick with the books and try to analysis the situation with according to them.

May 26 2017 13:04

Comrade Spikymike you are twisting my words that is neither nice nor fair. Probably you know my opinion, if not, please see a few of my article. I am not an adviser of them and I did not say ‘they should do that’ I simply said if they are looking for the partnership, they ‘probably’ better to ally themselves with Russia rather US . I have giving my reasons for that. You should have discussed my article instead of accusing me by something that I have not said and I have not done it
Best wishes

May 26 2017 13:06

HI Comrade Andrew,
Thanks for your long comment, I thinks I almost in agreement with you about what you said. I know the anarchists have been divided over Rojava , we cannot unit not just in Rojava even in many things, which is normal. I wrote an article about this in Oct 2015. This is the link below in which I mentioned few reasons for our disagreement about Rojava:
I cannot make any suggestion for them obviously but I am still entitled to say my opinion . In my opinion there is no future for Rojava to maintain what they have got now , let alone to what we love to be achieved there because of the reasons I mentioned in my articles . However, I can only repeat what I said in the reply to a couple of Comrades about the same thing . This is what I said .
May be I am selfish or ignorant or may be brutal to choose the same future for Rojava while I am sitting in a nice house and live well while they are facing death. ………………. But you cannot compromise your main principles. If the situation comes to that you should let the revolution dies, it is much better. It is always better to die while you are standing up, you are resisting rather than dying with surrendering or doing nothing, at least in resisting you have 50 percent chance to win.
Best wishes

May 27 2017 14:39

Linking Flint's post above with this one: http://libcom.org/news/comrades-arrested-under-custody-turkey-went-hunger-strike-today-may-242017-24052017 might see some 'unity' here, at least at the level of protest actions, though the impact of such outside of Turkey itself is unfortunately not likely to be a significant factor in getting these comrades released or others their jobs back.