Could a Federalist Democracy Stabilize Syria?

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Syrian Kurds’ new proposal could be the political solution refugees have been waiting for, says Trinity College’s Vijay Prashad

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Story Transcript

JESSICA DESVARIEUX: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore. Welcome to this edition of the Prashad Report.

Now joining us is South Asian History Professor of International Studies at Trinity College, Vijay Prashad. Vijay, thanks for being with us.

VIJAY PRASHAD: Pleasure, thanks.

DESVARIEUX: So Vijay the Syrian Kurds have actually proposed a deal to form a democratic Syria. Can you tell us the details about this proposal?

PRASHAD: Yes. So the Syrian Kurdish movement led by the Democratic Union Party met in Northeastern Syria for a meeting where they called some of their local allies. They essentially proposed some kind of federal solution for Syria. Syria has, during the course of these past 5 years in the midst of these terrible wars, has been fragmented by the kind of war making. The Syrian Center for Policy and Research in Damascus released a report quite recently saying that this fragmentation has become a reality inside Syria. In a sense, fragmentation can lead to partisan, can lead to very dangerous outcomes.

So the Syrian Kurds took some leadership here in saying that neither want to see the fragmentation of Syria move to a partisan of Syria on ethnic lines. Nor do they want to see the return of a centralized state centralized around the Damascus Institutions. So what they proposed in what they’re calling the Project for a Democratic Syria is a federal system. That Syria will be broken up into various regions where these regions they insist shall not be determined by either ethnic or sectarian lines.

Which is why this meeting that was held last week in northeastern Syria, they had as delegates, people from the Arab community, from the Armenian community, from various communities of Syria, so as to emphasize that this is not a Syrian Kurdish maneuver. They are not trying to seek succession form Syria or the break up of Syria. But they want some kind of federated system. Quite different from what has been the case in Iraq. So this is the proposal that they’ve put on the table. It of course was initially rejected by both the Assad government in Damascus and also the Istanbul based opposition. Neither of them are keen on this, they would like to see some kind of centralized structure. But in anyways the Syrian Kurdish proposal is perhaps the most realistic because it both provides confidence for parts of Syria that there will be no return of a centralized, bureaucratized state. It also provides I think some confidence that Syria will not be broken up or destroyed in the aftermath of this war.

DESVARIEUX: I’d like to get the reaction of the international community to this proposal because recently we had Secretary of State John Kerry meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin and there were sort of plans laid out that by August a new Syrian constitution would be drafted. Have they made any reference to this proposal at all?

PRASHAD: Not really, I mean, it’s important to pay some attention to the fact that the Syrian Kurdish, the main political organization, the Democratic Union is set up an office in Moscow. That is their first international office. The Syrian Kurds have a Moscow presence. Indeed it’s been under a Russian air support that the Syrian Kurdish militias with their allies among the Arab militias and others, have been able to take very significant parts of Northern Syria. So they have a very close working relationship with the Russians. During the attempt at the previous round of peace talks in Geneva. The Russians asked if the Syrian Kurds could have a seat at the table and at that point the Turkish government insisted that the Syrian Kurds must have no role in the negotiation. They were sort of casting out the Syrian Kurds as a player in the aftermath of this war.

I think in some ways because of this delicate relationship between Turkey, the United States, and the Syrian Kurds, the question that the Syrian Kurds has put on the table is not being taken up between the United States and Russia, publicly. Now it’s important to bear in mind that this idea that a constitution must be drafted by August, it reminds me a great deal of Iraq. Where after the U.S. invasion and then during the occupation the United States essentially drafted a constitution for the Iraqis which is essentially a sectarian constitution not one that has been able to oxygenate Iraqi nationalism or to help create Iraqi state institutions. So to force a constitution on Syria would not be acting the best way forward. It might turn out that the Syrian Kurdish proposal, the northern Syrian proposal to have a federated Syria might be a better spur for a discussion about how to better organize the internal make up of Syria once the war ends. It might be in fact, a more indigenous way of going than to have a constitution produced with advisors from both Moscow and Washington.

DESVARIEUX: Alright Vijay Prashad, it’s always interesting to hear your analysis. Thank you so much for being with us.

PRASHAD: Pleasure, thanks so much.

DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.

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