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Published On: Wed, Sep 20th, 2017

U.S. doesn’t support Kurdish independence in Syria and the greater region: Satterfield

nsnbc : The United States does not support Kurdish independence in Syria or the greater region said David Satterfield, Acting Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs for the State Department.

Kurdish parties in Syria during a PYD organized rally in 2016. (archives)

Kurdish parties in Syria during a PYD organized rally in 2016. (archives)

His statement came ahead of elections scheduled in the so-called Democratic Federal System of Northern Syria, also known as Rojava, scheduled for Friday and an independence referendum in the Kurdistan Autonomous Region of Iraq on Monday.

Satterfield made his statement while he spoke to reporters in New York City, as thousands of diplomats and foreign officials gather for the annual United Nations General Assembly.  Referring to Kurds in Syria as well as in Iraq he recognized that “their aspirations for independence (are) being suppressed in multiple parts of the region.”

Ambassador David Satterfield, however, also made it clear that the USA – at least for the time being – opposes independence. He said “And I’ll be very clear that there was uniform consensus in the room that now was not the moment for this referendum”.

The US administration has previously announced that it is opposed to the independence referendum in Iraq’s Kurdistan Autonomous Region (KAR) scheduled for September 25 because of “the timing” and because a premature referendum could have a negative impact on the alliance against ISIS.

The USA has thus far been more ambiguous with regard to the “elections” in Kurdish controlled cantons of Syria. The United States is, on one hand, backing the Syrian Democratic Forces and the PYD – YPG/YPJ. The USA is, however, also aware that NATO ally Turkey designated the PYD – YPG/YPJ as terrorist organization allied and on par with Turkey’s outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s party (PKK). Moreover, Turkey is strictly opposed to any Kurdish entity at its borders, be it in Iraq or Syria.

Referendum in Iraq's Kurdistan Autonomous Region scheduled for September 25.

Referendum in Iraq’s Kurdistan Autonomous Region scheduled for September 25.

“Deeper” US politics does, arguably, support an independent Kurdistan and the statement made by  the Acting Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs for the State Department, David Satterfield, is by many perceived as “current political posturing” rather than “representative of long-term U.S. policy”.

Apparently taken aback by a pesky reporter, Satterfield said “I think there is an international consensus on that point. But frankly, this was a Syria discussion, not a Kurdish-focused discussion.” Satterfield was the former Ambassador to Lebanon. He was named acting assistant secretary in May.

The Syrian – Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its military wings, the about 60,000 strong YPG / YPJ form the backbone of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces. The YPG dominated SDF have taken approximately 42,000 square-kilometers or 77 percent of the territory previously held by ISIS.

The PYD-led Democratic Federal System of Northern Syria announced in July they had set September 22 (Friday) for communal elections, followed by local elections on November 3, and parliamentary elections on January 1, 2018. The more Damascus and Baath Party – oriented Kurdish National Council (KNC, ENKS) stated it will boycott the elections, describing them as “illegitimate.”

In December 2016, the Democratic Federal System of Northern Syria was declared by the founding members of the self-declared Kurdish enclave in northern Syria. This move was then also rejected by the Syrian government. The government in Damascus recognized the PYD’s and YPG/YPJ’s struggle against ISIS and their achievements but denounced the planned elections or steps to establish a Kurdish enclave as illegal and unacceptable.

The PYD-dominated regional authorities – recognizing other ethnic groups and probably attempting not to create more PR quagmires between Ankara and Washington, announced they had dropped the word Rojava, a Kurdish word for Syrian Kurdistan, from the official name of the federation of northern Syria.

CH/L – nsnbc 20.07.2017

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  1. What exactly does that mean? The US also supports peace in the ME–and then does everything it can to prevent it.

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