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Syria Civil War: Kurdish Leader Says Collapse of Assad Regime 'Would be a Disaster' Despite Its Treatment of His People
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The overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad by Isis and rebel groups that are affiliated to al-Qaeda would be a calamity for the world, says the Syrian Kurdish leader Saleh Muslim.

In an interview with The Independent he warned that “if the regime collapses because of the salafis [fundamentalist Islamic militants] it would be a disaster for everyone.”

Mr Muslim said he was fully in favour of Mr Assad and his government being replaced by a more acceptable alternative. But he is concerned that Isis and other extreme Islamist groups are now close to Damascus on several sides, saying that “this is dangerous”. During a recent Isis offensive in the north eastern city of Hasaka, the Kurdish YPG (People’s Protection Units) militia and the Syrian Army both came under attack from Isis, but Mr Muslim denied that there was any collaboration between the two.

The Syrian Kurds, previously marginalised and discriminated against by the Damascus government, have become crucial players in the country’s civil war over the last year. In January, they defeated Isis at Kobani with the aid of US airstrikes after a four-and-a-half month siege and their forces are still advancing. While Mr Muslim said that he wants an end to rule by Mr Assad, he makes clear that he considers Isis to be the main enemy.

“Our main goal is the defeat of Daesh [Isis],” he said. “We would not feel safe in our home so long as there is one Daesh [Isis] left alive.” The threat did not come from them alone, he said, but also from al-Qaeda clones such as Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham. “They all have the same mentality.”

Mr Muslim is the president of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) that rules Rojava, as Kurds call the three Kurdish enclaves just south of the Turkish border. A stocky and affable man, aged 64, he apologised before the interview in the city of Ramalan for his broken English – though it turned out to be fluent, something explained by a year spent in Britain learning English and 12 years as an oil industry engineer in Saudi Arabia, where the working language was also English.

He says he is still surprised by the speed with which the Syrian Kurds have emerged from obscurity, since the withdrawal of the Syrian army from Kurdish enclaves in 2012, to become a major force in Syria. The highly-disciplined and committed YPG fighters have won victories over Isis this year at Kobani, Tal Abyad and Hasaka, at the same time that Isis was inflicting defeats on both the Iraqi and Syrian armies.

Mr Muslim and other PYD leaders now face an important decision about the future advance of YPG forces. Having retaken Kobani and 380 villages nearby, they are currently dug in on the east bank of the Euphrates River, close to Isis’s last remaining border crossing to Turkey at Jarabulus and to a larger, strategically important, area north of Aleppo. Turkey is wary of the YPG and is eager to create a so-called “safe zone” which would be held by Syrian opposition groups under its influence – ostensibly to keep Isis from its borders but thus also preventing Kurdish forces from advancing westwards.

Mr Muslim says the present situation cannot continue in this area because Kurdish civilians there are being attacked by Isis. Only the previous day, he said, 300 Kurds had been forced out of their homes in the Isis-held town of Manbij, where Kurds make up 30 per cent of the population, and seven people had been killed. Another 150 Kurdish villages are under threat.

Mr Muslim stressed the YPG was acting to defend not only Kurds, but all Syrians under attack by Isis. He said that if people living in the zone west of the Euphrates and north of Aleppo were “to ask the YPG for help” they would most likely get it. In addition, the Kurds want to open a road to a third Kurdish enclave at Afrin, which is isolated and under threat.

Noting the US wants an Isis-free zone in this area, Mr Muslim said “the perfect way to do this is ground troops and air support”. It is not entirely clear that the US will go along with this and give the YPG the air cover it may need, because it does not want to offend Turkey. However, the Syrian armed opposition is almost wholly dominated by Isis and its al-Qaeda equivalents, so the US does not want to damage the successful collaboration between YPG ground troops and US air power.

How would Turkey respond to a further Kurdish advance? It is already alarmed by the rise of a Kurdish state-let in the form of Rojava on its southern frontier with Syria. It knows that the PYD is essentially the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) against whom it has been fighting a guerrilla war since 1984. Mr Muslim said: “I do not think it is possible that Turkey will invade, but if it does it will be a big problem for Turkey.”

Though the YPG is America’s most effective military ally against Isis in both Iraq and Syria, Washington remains ambivalent about the extent of its co-operation with the Syrian Kurds. Mr Muslim says that “the Americans have not delivered any weapons or ammunition to the YPG”.

They have reassured him their support for the Syrian Kurds will not be weakened by their agreement with Turkey, signed in July, for the US to use Incirlik airbase and for Turkey to join attacks against Isis.

In the event, Turkey launched few air raids against Isis and many hundreds against the PKK in south-east Turkey and northern Iraq. Mr Muslim says that since detachments of the PKK in northern Iraq are fighting Isis, the Turkish actions can only benefit the Islamic militants. He is only partially comforted by American reassurances, saying what worries him is “what has not been revealed” about the US-Turkish deal.


In the course of the interview, Mr Muslim would periodically say that the situation was confusing, but he is adept at seeking to conciliate rival powers. He had just returned from a meeting with President Masoud Barzani, who heads the Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq and is himself wary of the sudden appearance of a rival Kurdish quasi-state in northern Syria. The KRG has been enforcing an intermittent embargo against Rojava, with some trucks waiting a couple of months on the frontier. Mr Muslim said the border was opening and closing “according to the mood” of KRG authorities.

He is dubious about reports of Russian troops joining the war in Syria. He had been in Moscow last month and had been assured that the Russians “would not do that. [Russian special envoy for Syria Mikhail] Bogdanov said to me that they would not be involved in the fighting.”

Though he is determined to fight Isis until it is defeated, Mr Muslim believes that the Syrian civil war must end in a compromise.

“In the end there should be political solution,” he says. “No side can finish off the other.”

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: ISIS, Kurds, Syria 
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  1. 5371 says:

    [The Syrian Kurds, previously marginalised and discriminated against by the Damascus government]

    This appears to be complete rubbish.

    [The highly-disciplined and committed YPG fighters have won victories over Isis this year at Kobani, Tal Abyad and Hasaka]

    They won because they are the only ones the US actually helped with bombing campaigns, more than by any qualities of their own.

  2. Mitleser says:

    The Syrian state is named Syrian Arab Republic for a good reason.
    It is not a state for the Syrian Kurds.

    • Replies: @Quartermaster
  3. Jim says:

    The Gates of Hell have opened in the Middle East and no one knows how to close them.

  4. @Mitleser

    If Syria is held then the Kurds will have had a lot to do with it. It may have Arab in the title, but the Kurds will either have something to say, or they will end up being absorbed into Kurdistan.

    Muslim is quite correct that the fall of the Assad regime would be a calamity for the region, and quite possibly the world.

    • Replies: @5371
  5. 5371 says:

    There won’t be an independent Kurdistan. Unlike in Iraq and Turkey, Kurds are a small minority in Syria.

    • Replies: @Mitleser
  6. Mitleser says:

    >small minority

    Not in northern Syria where the Syrian Kurdish population in concentrated.

  7. Michelle says:

    Some people need a strong dictator to make them behave. Arabs are just such people. Any religious differences are used as an excuse to engage in murder and mayhem.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
    , @Zhu Bajie
  8. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    The reason strongman dictators seem to do well in the middle east is not due to a defect in the character of Arabs. A strong, centralized power is needed because the borders the western powers drew in the middle east do not correspond to real-life ethnic and tribal divisions.

    Western meddling in the region goes way back.

    • Replies: @do
    , @martin_2
  9. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    {Kurdish Leader Says Collapse of Assad Regime ‘would be a Disaster’..}

    This is a big LIE. The Kurds are pawns of Israel and US in the region. If US/Israel do not want to topple Assad, then you can say the same about servants of zionism and imperalism, the Kurds. Noam Chomsky, the closet zionist say the same lie about Israel, that Israel wants Assad to stay.

  10. do says:

    Another reason of the appearances and persistence of the dictators is the evaporation or even vaporization of the alternatives secular pluralistic players by the western power from the colonial days
    It is no coincidence that instead of the leaders of the grass-root pan Arab national movement , the three Emirs AKA Royals AKA Shiekh were planted on the Arab by the West in 1930s.

  11. unit472 says:

    Its a sad state of affairs when a brutal hereditary dictator like Assad is considered ‘the solution’ which, of course, he is not. He is the problem as his minority Alawite regime has only survived by virtue of Iranian and Russian support. Getting rid of Assad and partitioning the country would be the logical solution but, of course, Turkey does not want to see a Kurdish state and the Arabs and the Israelis cannot accept another Iranian controlled regime/terrorist army in Syria.

    With no good solution the bad solution would seem to be Daesh/al Nusra toppling Assad and expelling Iran. Daesh has no source of heavy weapons of the sort that Israel would find intolerable for any successor regime in Damascus to possess and the ability of Daesh to actually create a functioning state is questionable. A period of bloody chaos might have to be tolerated until a new
    regime can be cobbled together. Russia would have its Alawite stronghold on the coast and the Kurds their statelet in the east while the remaining 70% of Syria would just have to fight it out unless Turkey was willing to impose a new government.

  12. Sean says:

    Kissinger is supposed to have said in relation to the last time the US left the Kurds in the lurch that foreign policy is not missionary work.

    The long term outcome of German states being invaded and played off against one another in religious wars was unification, and a serious problem for the rest of the world. In the long run the Middle East will be no different.

    Arabs, you can rent one, but you can’t buy one.

  13. { ..because Kurdish civilians there are being attacked by Isis. }

    This is like “Jewish civilization”. The khazaris adopted Judaism faith in 9th century and became ‘Jewish’. They, however, have NO connection to Hebrews in the ME. Now, what is ‘Kurdish civilization’?

  14. Priss Factor [AKA "The Priss Factory"] says:

    Syrian government didn’t treat its people badly before the war began.

    Once war began, it was a matter of survival, so the government got ruthless. But what nation/government doesn’t act that way when pushed into a corner?

    Look how US fought WWII.

  15. bluto says:

    ISIS = the Sunni Awakening prepared by Petraeus and Max Boot and his gang of jolly Neocons

    Neocon-led Invisible Armies to send against the enemies of Eretz Israel, and the Israeli/Israeli Lobby coordinated blitzkreigs thru areas with Sunni Awakening-supporters on the ground.

    The Apartheid just ran out of time and luck before pulling it off… now the diplomatic tsunami inundating it today, the one warned of by Ehud Barack in 2012

    1- The Successful Iran Nuclear Deal: EXISTENTIAL EVENT
    2- The Successfully Advancing ICC case(s) against Israel at the ICC: EXISTENTIAL EVENT#2
    3- Incoming unanimous UN Sec Co Resolution against Israel SUPPORTED BY THE US/Stripping of diplomatic cover of Israel: EXISTENTIAL EVENT #3

    Count’em 3 THREE existential events, seen AS such by Israel itself, each one dispositive in itself but all 3 presenting simultaneously

    3 strikes! Mighty Casey just struck out and there is NO JOY in Israeli Lobby Muddville tonight!

    • Replies: @KA
  16. KA says:

    Why ISIS?

    It can’t be happening without the guidance and the desires of the neocons.

    But IS will turn on its master of creation. May be the Zio master of the master wants exactly that

    • Replies: @KA
  17. There is truth in the statement as Assad tried to keep the peace despite his Alawi affiliation meaning his nationalist regime made sure all were on equal terms just as Saddam practiced with Iraq. US regimes propped up both but when these dictators are taken down, the thread that hold these groups together fall apart due to the lack of a central regime/government to keep the peace. Chaos will reign, then you add fire to the pan with the presence of Russia and the ante has been raised.

  18. […] have weighed in to the debate on Assad…….an interesting turn…… Source: Syria civil war: Kurdish leader says collapse of Assad regime ‘would be a disaster’ despite its … While I was in the process of writing this piece another situation developed….. But they […]

  19. KA says:

    “The finger, it says, should be pointed not at Mr. Obama but at those who pressed him to attempt training Syrian rebels in the first place — a group that, in addition to congressional Republicans, happened to include former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.”

    …. The military was correct in concluding that “this was a more difficult endeavor than we assumed and that we need to make some changes to that program,” Mr. Earnest said. “But I think it’s also time for our critics to ‘fess up in this regard as well. They were wrong.”……

    “It is true that we have found this to be a difficult challenge,” Mr. Earnest said. “But it is also true that many of our critics had proposed this specific option as essentially the cure-all for all of the policy challenges that we’re facing in Syria right now. That is not something that this administration ever believed, but it is something that our critics will have to answer for.”

    – See more at:

    Just as it occurred as was it planned in Libya ,behind the back of Obama so did Syrian imbroglio
    returned with full vengeance with overt full perverted support of the neocons across the so called unbridgable divide of the 2 parties . The two parties are bridged by the Zionist .

  20. Before the present boundaries were created for the present Middle East, Kurdistan was a known area straddling countries known knows as Syria, Iraq, Turkey and Iran but as these nation/states were formed, Kurdistan as a distinct entity “disappeared”. It is still present but its fractured status within these states makes it less relevant until now when they now form a block (unified front) against the disintegration of its neighbor(s).

  21. martin_2 says:

    Rubbish! Diversity is strength, remember!

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