Syrian Kurds Play the Russia Card in Pursuit of Autonomy

Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 10 Issue: 10

By: Wladimir van Wilgenburg

clip_image001

(Source: Kurdistan National AssemblySyria)

The ongoing political and security crisis in Syria has provided unexpected opportunities for Syria’s Kurdish community to initiate diplomatic discussions with Russia, China and Iran in its pursuit of regional autonomy, a near impossibility under the Assad regime before the outbreak of political violence as part of last year’s “Arab Spring.”

The Partiya Karkeren Kurdistan (PKK – Kurdistan Workers Party) and its Syrian affiliate, the Partiya Yekitiya Demokrat (PYD – Democratic Union Party), Russia, Iran and China are opposed to  outside intervention by the Western states or Turkey and prefer to find alternatives This has resulted in the reshaping of relations in the region.

In the past, Russia has utilized the PKK as a lever against Turkey to deter possible Turkish support for Chechen insurgents. [1] After 2008, Russia emerged as Turkey’s largest trading partner and relations improved, but now Turkey and Russia have differences over Syria. [2] For Russia, Syria is a long-term ally in the Middle-East and the naval supply station in the Syrian port of Tartus is of strategic value (see Eurasia Daily Monitor, April 19). This has caused friction in Russia’s relations with Turkey, which has abandoned its ties to Syria and now supports the removal of the Assad-government while opposing any role for the PKK and the PYD in a post-Assad Syria.

Continue reading

The Muslim Brotherhood Reborn The Syrian Uprising

by Yvette Talhamy

Middle East Quarterly
Spring 2012, pp. 33-40
(view PDF)

As Syrian president Bashar al-Assad struggles to contend with a massive popular uprising, the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood (SMB) is poised to dominate whatever coalition of forces manages to unseat the Baathist regime. Though in many ways the Brotherhood’s official political platform is a model of Islamist moderation and tolerance, it is less a window into the group’s thinking than a reflection of its political tactics. Unlike its parent organization, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, which often kept its ideological opponents at arm’s length, the SMB has repeatedly forged alliances with secular dissident groups even as it secretly tried to negotiate a deal with the Assad regime to allow its return from exile. Since the moderation of its political platform over the past two decades has clearly been intended to facilitate this triangulation, it does not tell us much about the ultimate intentions of the Syrian Brotherhood.

The Brotherhood’s Background

 

The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood has openly declared its support for the current protests but has denied responsibility for organizing them. The demonstrations, they claim, are not led by the SMB but by the newly formed Syrian National Council, which proposes to unite all opposition groups including SMB members.

The SMB was established in 1945-46 by Mustafa as-Sibai as a branch of Hassan al-Banna‘s Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Though favoring the establishment of an Islamic state in Syria,[1] it participated in parliamentary elections after the country gained independence in 1946 (winning 4 seats in 1947, 3 seats in 1949, 5 seats in 1954, and 10 seats in 1961) and even had ministers in two governments.[2]

When the secular, nationalist Baath party took power in 1963, it quickly moved to weaken the SMB and the urban, Sunni merchant class that supported the movement. The group was outlawed in 1964, and its leader Isam al-Attar was exiled. That same year, a revolt led by the SMB erupted in the city of Hama and was quelled by force.[3] During the 1970s, relations between the SMB and President Hafez Assad (r. 1970-2000) deteriorated into large-scale violence.

Although the Brotherhood’s opposition to Baathist rule was expressed ideologically in polite company, there was a deep sectarian undercurrent, as the Assad regime was dominated by Alawites, a schismatic Islamic sect viewed as heretical by religious Sunnis. Armed elements of the SMB assassinated government officials and carried out bombings of government buildings, Baath party offices, and other targets associated with the regime.[4] In 1979, the SMB carried out a massacre of eighty-three unarmed Alawite cadets at an artillery school in Aleppo. In June 1980, it is said to have made an assassination attempt against the president, who allegedly retaliated by ordering hundreds of captured SMB prisoners gunned down in their cells. Although the SMB has always maintained that it had no connection to underground, armed factions responsible for violence,[5] few take the claim seriously. Continue reading

Breaking: Al-Qaeda affiliate posts video showing preparations for Damascus twin suicide bombings

Monday, February 27, 2012

Bashar al-Assad may be a murderer, but at least some of his opponents are no better. An al-Qaeda-affiliated terror organization has posted a video that shows preparations for twin suicide bombings that took place in Damascus on January 6.

Let’s go to the videotape.

So Bashar al-Assad is telling the truth – at least in part. At least some of his opponents are connected to al-Qaeda and to its parent organization, the Muslim Brotherhood. And therefore it’s probably just as well that for the most part, the West has kept out of the fighting in Syria. On the other hand, I have little doubt that things in Syria are headed for a civil war. Bashar and his Alawite sect, who constitute the Syrian army’s officers corps, know full well that if they lose to the Sunni majority, they will all be killed. So this is quite literally a battle to the death, with a lot of innocent civilians caught in the middle. Like in Egypt, the democrats and liberals are unfortunately the least likely people to end up in power.

Continue reading