Russia and the Kurds: an endless story of betrayal
Russia and the Kurds: an endless story of betrayal
The Kremlin has always viewed the Kurds as a bargaining chip in its geopolitical games. At the same time, this certainly ended in tragedy for the Kurds themselves, because betrayal for Moscow is a favorite strategy. But the events with the betrayal of the Kurds by Russians in Afrin have become an incredible image loss for Putin's regime, which could be used to conceal even more negativity.
Kremlin speculation on the Kurdish issue
The Kurdish nation, which still deprived of their statehood and divided among the four neighboring powers, is of huge interest to the Russian leadership. Realizing the Kurds' continuing efforts to create their own state, Moscow has long been using this factor to destabilize the Middle East region.
At the same time, the Russian policy with respect to the Kurdish issue is called "diplomacy with variable geometry". Under this formulation, their favorite strategy of Machiavellianism, based on unscrupulousness, treachery and cunning, is disguised. These is the notorious approach of trading by «friends», the willingness to support and even in some way strengthens a temporary ally, and then at the most inopportune moment it is ruthlessly betrayed in order to obtain a momentary benefit.
To begin with, the "Kurdish question" is an international problem that was created with the active participation of the Russian Empire more than a hundred years ago. This refers to the conclusion of a secret agreement Sykes-Pico dated May 16, 1916, implying the division of the Ottoman Empire.
The Black Sea straits, Constantinople, as well as certain territories in Palestine on the "Holy Land" were to enter into the Russian zone of influence. In addition, during the division of Asia Minor the Russian government demanded that France and Britain recognize Russia's right to annex Turkish territories occupied by the Russian army during the war: Erzurum, Trabzon, Van and Bitlis. Of course, the issues of Arab and Kurdish statehood were discussed at that time, but these nations were simply taken off the table then. So, it was the first time when Moscow left the Kurds to the mercy of fate.
In 1921, the Soviet government recognized the Kurdish nationality. According to various estimates, up to 160,000 Kurds lived on the territory of Soviet Russia at that time. But all this was done for a reason. Being in international isolation at that time, the Kremlin decided to play the Kurdish card to press Britain and France by raising the national liberation movement of the Kurdish people in Iraq (British Mandate Territory), Syria (French Mandate Territory), as well as in Turkey and Iran.
With this purpose, the Kurdish region was created in the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh in 1923 with the capital in the city Lachin, named "Red Kurdistan". It can be said that this is one of the prototypes of the modern Syrian Rojava.
The Kurds did not get the statehood at that time, but Moscow gained recognition from Turkey, Iran and Great Britain after 7 years of international isolation. But the Stalin government kindly thanked the Kurds for that. In the 1930s, this people were massively deported from the Caucasus to Central Asia, and underwent Russification, up to a change of names.
The next time the USSR used the Kurds to undermine the territorial integrity of Iran, which is a part of the Sochi Troika now, and is the guarantor of the truce in Syria.
The Kremlin was interested to annex the lands of Southern Azerbaijan with the center in Iranian Tabriz. In November 1945, the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan (DRA) was proclaimed there, and it was planned to be included in the USSR.
In order to distract Tehran's attention from the DRA, the Soviet Union went to the trick and created simultaneously the "Kurdish People's Republic" (KPR) with its capital in Mehbad. The main support of the newborn separatist republic was the Kurdish tribe of the barzan, led by Mustafa Barzani.
The scheme repeats the strategy of the Kremlin in the Ukrainian question, namely, the annexation of the Crimea and the creating separatist formations in the Donbas. This underscores once again that Putin's regime thinks by Stalin categories and it should not expect anything good either for the Russian people or for the world community.
With the support of Western countries, Iran was able to suppress mutinies in its regions organized by the Soviets, and both puppet republics fell under the strikes of the Iranian army.
Here is what the Polish historian and the expert on the Caucasus Tadeush Svetochovky writes about this: "As it turned out, the Soviets had to admit that their ideas with regard to Iran were premature. The issue of Iranian Azerbaijan became one of the open clashes of the Cold War, and the Soviet troops had to retreat, mainly because of pressure from the West. Shortly thereafter, the autonomous republic collapsed, and members of the Democratic Party took refuge in the Soviet Union to avoid retaliation from the Iranians. In Tabriz, crowds who recently applauded the autonomous republic were welcomed by the returning Iranian troops; Azerbaijani students publicly burned their textbooks written in the national language. The bulk of the population was not ready even for regional self-government, as it smacked of separatism".
No less sad was the fate of the organizers of the Iranian "republics". Some of them were hanged in Tehran, and those who could flee to the Soviet Union were quickly interned and traditionally deported to Central Asia.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia "reactivated" the Kurdish map. At this time, they had to play an important role in undermining Turkey. The latter, as is known, is also the guarantor of the ongoing peace process in Syria, but very unreliable, as the events of the last days in Afrin have shown.
In the 1990's, Ankara, which was inspired by the chaos in post-Soviet Russia, decided to strengthen its geopolitical project by supporting Islamic forces. In addition, the Turks sought to reduce the flow of Russian oil tankers through the Bosporus and the Dardanelles, which would undermine Russia's economic strength, which is highly dependent on oil and gas exports.
As to revenge the Turks, an international conference on Russian Kurds was organized in Moscow in 1994. And in 1995, two Kurdish expelled Kurds Ali Yigit and Nekdat Buldan even wanted to create a Kurdish exile parliament in Moscow.
In addition, the Russian special services stepped up support for the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK), waging a war against the Turkish government since 1984. Even the opening of the party's office was planned in Russia. Also, Moscow did not want to recognize the PKK fighters as terrorists, as the Turks pressed.
At the same time, Russians betrayed the Kurds again after the agreements on mutual assistance on Chechen and Kurdish issues between Putin and Recep Erdogan. For example, Russia extradited one of the PKK activists to Ankara in July 2012, and it means that the "peace" treaty between the parties was in force.
In 1998, the office of the Democratic Party of Kurdistan was opened in Russia, representing the interests of Iraqi Kurds. After the start of the US military operation against the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Russians some of the first opened their Consulate General in the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, Erbil. This shows that Moscow is still profitable for the disintegration of Middle Eastern states and chaos in their territories.
"Rojava frontline" of Moscow's anti-Turkish war
The number of Kurds is up to 1.5 million in Syria, and they are the second largest ethnic group in the country. But Damascus conducted a policy of discrimination towards its Kurds, considering them "foreigners" or else had an even worse status - "unregistered". The Ba'ath regime made every effort to isolate its Kurds from Kurds in other countries and pursued a policy of creating an "Arab buffer". In fact, it was the policy of enclosing a whole nation.
In general, the Kurds were looked upon as a backward part of the population incapable of mass collective political action. But in 2004, an uprising of Kurds with hundreds of dead took place in the city Kamishli. This marked the beginning of the formation of identity among the Syrian Kurds.
This was also promoted by the activities of Turkish Kurds from the PKK in Syria. In exchange for the loyalty of the Assad government, the PKK has ensured the peace of the Syrian Kurds in recent years. Syria had its reasons to support the PKK and Abdullah Ocalan, in particular, to use them as a means of exerting pressure on Turkey, which was also attended by both Soviet and then Russian special services.
With the start of the civil war, the Kurds felt the opportunity to assert their rights by becoming an active participant in it. The Kurds were partially prepared for the Syrian crisis. In 2003, they created the Party of the Democratic Union (PYD), which became a legal version of the PKK in Syria, as a platform for power struggle. After the departure of the Asadites from the Kurdish regions of Syria, power was transferred to PYD, and its leaders created three cantons in 2014: Jazira, Kobani and Afrin.
Taking control of the territory, the Kurds declared that they would protect it from ISIS, the opposition forces and government forces. Counteraction of the Kurds to Jabha al-Nusra and the ISIS was so effective that they were able to attract some Arabs to their side. Thus, the Kurds declared themselves as a serious force in Syria.
They also managed to establish control over the rich oil fields in the border areas with Turkey. The culmination of the rise of the Kurdish movement was the proclamation of the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria on 17 March 2016, better known as Rojava.
Moscow also attached its hand to the prosperity of Rojava, to which Ankara looked with horror. At first, it was deliveries of weapons, ammunition for soldiers from Kurdish groups of people's self-defense YPG. But it was done with the goal of enticing the Kurds from the US to Russian side. Moscow and Rojava came at the system level of the cooperation at full swing of the Russian-Turkish crisis, which began after the Turks were shot down a Russian military aircraft Su-24 in November 2015.
To put pressure on Turkey, Moscow has decided to seriously engage promotion of the "Rojava" project in the international level, in addition to provide the supply of weapons to Kurdish rebels in Turkish territory. Some Russian experts voiced the thesis that there is nothing shameful about undermining Turkey from the outside and from inside, because Turkey helps the Crimean Tatars in Ukraine in the matter of the return of the Crimea. As you know, the Turks are considering the emergence of Kurdish autonomy in Syria, as a step towards the possible disintegration of their country.
There were also thoughts in the Russian media that Moscow should convince Assad to provide the broadest autonomy Syrian Kurds, because this could help liberate the northeast Syria from ISIS. In addition, "broad Kurdish autonomy in the northeast of Syria could become the mainstay of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, with which the Kurds could fight for their rights in Turkey, seeking a solution to create a similar autonomy in this country".
And this all opens up a new door to the Middle East scene for Russia, because the rise of the Kurdish national liberation movement will weaken the rivals of Moscow, such as Turkey and Iran, with whom Russians are forced to enter in temporary alliances.
Russia has done too much for the international legitimization of Rojava. The first foreign representation of the Syrian Kurds of Rojava was opened in Moscow in February 2016. Although Kremlin officials were not present at the event, the fact of opening the office of the "Kurdish Syrian separatists" in Moscow cannot be interpreted ambiguously.
It took off from there. The Russian Foreign Ministry began to demand the integration of delegates of Rojava in the number of delegates to the negotiations for a peaceful settlement in Syria "Geneva-3". The wishes of the Kurds from PYD were taken into account by the Russians during drafting a new Syrian constitution. During 2017, YPG units appeared on Russian military bases in Syria and were dressed in uniform, both with the symbols of their organization, and with the flags of Russia.
After the meeting of the Sochi Troika at the end of 2017, the RF Ministry of Foreign Affairs invited a delegation from Rojava to the Congress on the Syrian National Dialogue, scheduled for the end of January 2018. It looks as a full complex of allied relations between Russians and Syrian Kurds.
At the same time, the dynamics of these relations did not deteriorate even amid of the normalization of relations between Moscow and Ankara, which took place after the suppression of the attempt of a military coup in Turkey in the summer of 2016. The last event makes us seriously think about why Moscow went on such a sharp betrayal of its partners and agreed to conduct a Turkish military operation in the Kurdish region of Afrin.
Betrayal in Afrin and the Turkish frame in the wardrobe of Putin
As you know, Turkey launched the military operation "Olive Branch" in the Kurdish canton of Afrin in the north of Syria on January 19. The international community is very ambiguous to the actions of the Turks. Although some NATO members are confident that Ankara has the right to defend its borders, but there are voices that it should root out the ISIS fighters in Syria instead of fighting against the Kurds.
If the unfriendly actions of Turks against representatives of PYD and YPG in Afrin can be understood, because they always have called them terrorists, but Moscow's behavior towards the Kurds can be classified as treacherous betrayal.
At the same time, if in the previously described cases of the Kremlin's refusal from its Kurdish friends, the motives were relatively clear, the current circumstances all seem much more complicated. In 2011, Russia did not protect its long-time ally, Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, by blocking the UN resolution, essentially legitimizing the beginning of the NATO military operation in that country.
In 2018, we see the same action in Afrin, only in relation to the Kurds. It is known that the Russian military controls the airspace over Afrin, and Turkish Air Force could not start bombing the positions of the Kurds without their consent. In addition, Russian observers and military police were stationed in the city, which could also deter the Turkish army from offensive actions. But the Russians left their positions in Afrin in a few hours before the "Olive Branch". Not to mention the fact that Erdogan's emissaries visited Moscow before the start of combat actions, where they finally agreed anti-Kurdish operation with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.
In order to clean up the reputation, the Kremlin propagandists begin to sling muck at the Kurds, attributing to them all mortal sins. For example, Russian military expert Alexei Leonkov claims that the Kurds were "non-transparent" and, as modern histories showed, to take money, ask for protection, and then hit in the back - this manner of behavior among the Kurdish leaders is by no means a rare occurrence. This is a local variant of understanding the term "multi-vector".
Moreover, according to him, the Kurds were almost the accomplices of ISIS. "The safeconduct of ISIS fighters through their territory, participation in US special operations for the evacuation of ISIS leaders, the transit of ISIS oil. Who were the oil carriers? Kurdish! There was something else ... Do not count everything. In short, it turned out that the Kurds do not want to be reliable allies. They are on their own and for themselves. "
Of course, the Kurds are far from the concept of holiness, because they live in an extremely hostile environment for centuries, but they made almost a decisive contribution to the destruction of ISIS, and Moscow should have very good reasons to accuse them of the opposite.
Let's look at the reasons that pushed Russia to cruel treason. This is the problem of the effectiveness of the congress of the national dialogue on Syria in Sochi, which is about to start. If on the eve of this event Turkey withdrew from the "Sochi Troika", then the mega PR-project "Putin is the Syrian peacemaker" would instantly fall apart.
But it is important to note that a demonstrative exit from the alliance with Russia and Iran would have catastrophic consequences for Ankara itself. It is clear that Erdogan was bluffing here.
Kremlin developed a message for the outspoken fans to the alliances with the Kurds that Russia suggested the Kurds to transfer control over Afrin to Syrian government forces in exchange for preventing Turkish armed intervention. The Syrian democratic forces, however, did not accept this proposal. Taking into account the current situation, the Kurdish party "Democratic Union" stated that it refuses to participate in the Congress of the Syrian national dialogue in Sochi and does not intend to fulfill any agreements that will be achieved there. Those, Kurds themselves are very bad and do not want peace and construct. But this version also breaks to pieces, as it is known that Ankara itself opposed the participation of Kurds from the "Democratic Union" in the Sochi forum.
All the motives that explain Russian betrayal seem to be unconvincing and frankly weak. After all, the Kremlin gets the participation of the Turks in the Sochi congress and their confrontation with the United States. But these are insufficient acquisitions from such a significant loss. And apparently, the "betrayal of the Kurds" was a small evil in the face of an even more trendy strike against the Kremlin's inhabitants.
Probably, the real reason for such a sharp turn of the Putin administration from the Kurds is new details related to the murder of Russian ambassador Andrei Karlov in Ankara. As you know, he was killed by a 22-year-old former police officer from the special police unit of the Turkish police Mevlut Altyntash.
The assassin himself was also shot 20 minutes after the execution of the terrorist act. The Turkish investigation immediately stated that he had at least two accomplices. On January 7, 2017, four policemen were arrested - former colleagues of Altyntash. The Izmir city prosecutor's office stated that another arrested person is the activist of the movement of the preacher Fethullah Gulen, Suleiman Ergen, who "supervised" the supporters of the preacher among the cadets from the police academy named after Rushtu Unsala in Izmir, where Altynash studied. All of them are charged with "belonging to an armed terrorist organization". The initial version was that the terrorist act was conducted by Gulen supporters, especially amid of the excitement that was going on in Turkey after the failed "military coup".
Putin very skillfully used the murder of Karlov, because it allowed him to solve two tasks: to remove the war crimes of Russia in Aleppo from the international agenda and he created a tough situation that forced Erdogan to make concessions to Moscow on the issue of the Syrian peace settlement. The Turkish leadership has harbored deep anger at the Russians, suspecting that it is the Russian secret services are behind the sacred murder of their own ambassador.
In November 2017, information appeared that new arrests had taken place in the Karlov case, and the organizer of the murder was allegedly found. Everything happened on the days of the Sochi summit, at which Erdogan expressed dissatisfaction with the role that Moscow and Tehran assign to the Turks.
Turkish law enforcers got the "Moscow trail" that it could suffer very significant damage to the Kremlin. The Turkish side sent a clear signal to Moscow that if its conditions were not accepted, then the investigation could go on to the real the assassin’s paymasters of the ambassador - the Russian special services, although the latter committed the attack "by someone else's hands".
In addition, the Turkish media announced that the detained Turkish film producer Hayreddin Aydinbash was personally acquainted with Karlov, and also visited Moscow because of his professional activities related to Russia. He called for the restoration of bilateral relations between the two countries and he even held conferences in the Russian capital.
Apparently, an evidentiary basis is being gathered, indicating that the Putin regime organizes assassinations of its own high rank citizen for the solution of situational tasks in the Middle East.
In Moscow, they began to wait for the announcement of new facts shedding light on the real terrorists from the depths of Russian special services. A scandal of this magnitude would strike a tangible blow to Putin's rating, which quietly kills not only his fellow citizens, but even his ambassadors.
If the Turks would have given evidence of the Kremlin's guilt in assassination of Karlov, then this could simply turn off the situation in Russia. People would see the whole iceberg of Putin's terror.
Putin agreed to give the Turks what they want with aim to put Ankara on the "right" track in the Karlov case, accusing members of the Gyulen organization. This object of interest was the Kurds, who were ruthlessly betrayed.
As a result, the Turkish newspaper Sabah reported about the detention of a new suspect in the organization of the murder of Karlov on January 11, 2018. The detainee is a man with V.K.A. initials, member of the organization of the opposition Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen (FETO). The man was fired from the government service for his relations with FETO and after some time detained, but later released. In addition, he was a user of the program ByLock, through which, according to the Turkish authorities, the opposition FETO exchanged encrypted data.
Apparently, this message was a signal that the Turks have fulfilled their part of the deal. A week later, they entered Afrin without obstacles from Russia.