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The Saudi-Kurdish love affair

category mashriq / arabia / iraq | imperialism / war | opinion / analysis author Friday December 07, 2018 14:03author by Khaled Aboud Report this post to the editors

As everyone watches in horror and disbelief the unparalleled Saudi atrocities in Yemen and the unspeakable barbaric assassination of the journalist Jamal Kashoggi, the Saudi royals are increasingly isolated in the world. However, in the Middle East, they have made new friends: the Kurdish of Syria.

As everyone watches in horror and disbelief the unparalleled Saudi atrocities in Yemen and the unspeakable barbaric assassination of the journalist Jamal Kashoggi, the Saudi royals are increasingly isolated in the world. However, in the Middle East, they have made new friends: the Kurdish of Syria. The relationship is gaining strength of late. Ilham Ehmed, co-chairman of the Syrian Democratic Council spared no words of praise to describe the relationship between Saudi Arabia, and the SDF and the de facto state-in-the-making in north eastern Syria:

“Saudi Arabia is a brother country of Syria and important to Muslims. The SDF is ready to cooperate with countries seeking to end the conflict in Syria and to impose stability by building a democratic Syria away from all sectarian and national projects.” (

In the curious SDF worldview, Saudi Arabia, a country run by an unelected despot monarchy, where flogging and public executions are an everyday affair, where women are pretty much banned from public life, which handsomely has funded jihadists in Syria for seven years, and which has an appalling human rights record in every single respect, is trying to build a democratic Syria! The butchers of Yemen are now a force for stability!

Of course, we can’t take Ehmed words at face value. It all goes down to money. You never bite the hand that feeds you. Saudi Arabia, after realizing that the Free Syrian Army would never defeat the Syrian Army and depose Assad, shifted, together with the USA, to support for the Kurdish-led SDF as a mechanism to have a say in the ongoing Syrian crisis and weaken the Arab nationalist regime of Assad, a thorn in the side to the growing religious conservatism which has swept the region. They have funded the SDF, together with another “beacon of democracy” in the Middle East, the United Arab Emirates, with over U$150 millions ( Progressives and libertarians should not remain silent at these developments, as what once could have been a revolutionary force degenerates into a callous pragmatism.

Strange alliances have happened in the course of the Syrian conflict. The Israel-Saudi Arabia- USA- SDF alliance has been possible because of Iran is a common enemy. The US also wants to prevent further involvement of Russia in the region, which could undermine their own weakened hegemony ( All of the above mentioned countries will support the Kurdish cause because the partition of Syria will weaken Assad and the Hezbolah-Iran axis. And the Kurdish are ready to use this contradiction to their advantage. But to what extent they are being used? Have they started to change their approach? They started demanding a very radical revolution in social, political, gender and environmental terms. Now their best allies are those who deny climate change and do the most to stop any action to save our planet (the US) and petro-monarchies that are structurally misogynist (UAE and Saudi Arabia). How can you commit seriously, in such a scenario, to any real programme of change, particularly on women and on the environment? Unavoidably, the Kurdish practice will eventually come back to narrow nationalism, totally divorced from its discourse as no real revolution will be tolerated by the USA imperialism and by the Saudis. They already started to create the abyss between the revolutionary PKK and the SDF/YPG: the USA put a price on the heads of top PKK commanders and the SDF/YPG are shamefully silent.

The model upon which they seek to build an independent Syria looks, to may Kurdish commentators, just like Israel:

“The Kurds must pressure western allies to develop a policy that takes a clear stance on the Kurds as Israel has so effectively done. Israel has successfully secured a guaranteed pro-Israel policy and stance from the US and major European powers that have yet to disappoint.” (

Israel, at its time, also built its apartheid state while talking about advanced democracy, women’s rights and even of semi-libertarian experiences such as the kibbutzim. But no self-management, no libertarian project can be built on top of the dispossession of the natives and no freedom can be the by-product of colonialism. Unfortunately, the Kurdish project, after covering itself with a multi-cultural lens is becoming increasingly sectarian: clashes have been reported –and they have been violently suppressed by the SDF/YPG- with Christians in Qamishli, and the Arabs in all the territories they are occupying well beyond their own natural areas of influence, are extremely unhappy with what they described as an occupation.

With the Turkish invasion of Afrin, the Kurdish demonstrated that, without US airpower, they are a weak and incompetent fighting force. It also demonstrated that the practical limits of the Kuridsh project are set by the USA: they left Afrin fall like a house of cards because it was no priority to their imperial master. The SDF/YPG difficulties fighting ISIS in Hajin contrasts with the speed by which they seized the oil fields in Deir ez Zor, which was priority for the USA. Unsurprisingly, they are now calling for the USA to establish a permanent military presence in the region ( This presence will have great geostrategic importance in shaping the new Middle East project designed by Bush Jr. and will be paid by the USA plunder of Syrian oil. From a libertarian guerrilla force willing to build a new world, they are turning into a US proxy army with a pragmatic approach in their quest to build a new nation-state in the Middle East.

The gap between Kurdish theory and practice has turned into an unbridgeable abyss. Their rhetorical cry for freedom, autonomy and independence is contrasted by their alliance with imperialism and with the most backward monarchies in the world. That they see themselves into the Israeli mirror –a racist, supremacist and militaristic enclave State- should be enough to send shivers down the spine of progressives.

It is clear, at this stage, that what started as a promising revolution has degenerated. From freedom fighters, the Kurdish have turned into the USA proxy army. While all the world look with horror at Saudi Arabia and their genocidal war in Yemen and the barbaric mutilation and murder of journalist Kashoggi, the silence of the Kurdish speaks louder than words. How can you talk about women’s freedom when your allies, best friends, the forces of stability, are among the worst misogynists in the world and you are silent, completely silent, about their crimes at a time that even conservatives like Macron in France criticise their crimes in Yemen and the horrific Kashoggi affair? A truly revolutionary force would be allying with the Saudi women fighting for change and equality, not with the Prince and the King! How can you talk about autonomy when you are absolutely dependent on the USA and indeed you are calling for a permanent occupation of the region where you claim sovereignty? What type of self-determination comes out of the cannon of a foreign imperialist super-power? These are questions that progressives around the world should legitimately ask to the Kurdish liberation movement –solidarity should not obscure critical thinking. What’s more, our solidarity has been with a libertarian project which was represented at one point by the Kurdish, but we should be no slaves to their terrible decisions and become uncritical accessories to justify the construction of their own sectarian state.

We live in strange times, indeed.

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