Further to our 17 July 2013 Courcy’s Intelligence Brief report Kurds looking to take advantage of Erdogan’s setbacks, the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) has declared autonomy for the Kurds of northern Syria beginning on 19 July. The PYD is linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) guerrilla group in Turkey.
The announcement coincided with news that PYD forces had seized the Syrian border town of Ras al-Ain from anti-Assad Islamist rebels. The fighting between the PYD and the Nusra Front broke out on 16 July after the Islamist rebels attacked a Kurdish patrol. Fighting is now said to have spread further into the Kurdish province of Hassakeh, including close to the Rumelian oil field which is 200km east of Ras el-Ain.
PYD official Aldar Khalil says that the autonomy plan will be put into effect in all cities and villages liberated by the group. He says: “We believe the Syrian Kurdish regions should be controlled by Kurdish parties. Therefore we have prepared a plan which we will be able to set into motion in all villages and cities. The control of all regions will then be decided in a democratic election after three months.”
Turkish intelligence agencies fear that the PYD is co-operating with the Assad regime and that, if the regime survives, Syria and Iran might use the Kurdish autonomous region to continue their support for terrorist activities against Turkey.
Interestingly, the PYD is at odds with Masoud Barzani’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq, which is close to Turkey.
The situation is nothing if not complex, but one fairly safe assumption is that Turkey’s Kurds are unlikely to settle for anything much less than has been achieved by their Syrian and Iraqi brothers, adding further substance to our 17 July analysis that the PKK will seek to take advantage of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s current difficulties.