In the tenth year of the conflict, challenges to YPG/PYD’s rule look different than they did in mid-2012. The group successfully managed to establish itself as the dominant Syrian Kurdish militia-cum-political-party in the Kurdish areas of northeastern Syria between 2012 and 2015. It subsequently extended its dominance over much of Syria’s Arab-populated northern and eastern areas. Its main challenge today is how to retain its position of dominance that is precariously perched on US support to avoid another Turkish incursion as well as the ability to ensure sufficient Arab co-optation to forestall more serious efforts by the regime and its allies to infiltrate the Deir Ezzor and Raqqa areas. In this section we examine key elements of the equation that will – positively or negatively – influence the nature and quality of future YPG/PYD governance, namely: a) its relationship with the PKK; b) intra-Kurdish negotiations; c) the longer-term US presence in northeast Syria; and d) its relations with the Arabs / Arab tribes of northeastern Syria.

Table 3
Factors of influence on the future of YPG/PYD rule in northeastern Syria


Negative development

Neutral development

Positive development

(1) PKK relationship

If PKK influence on YPG/PYD strategic decision making is maintained, the latter will likely have to use more coercion because:

Intra-Kurdish negotiations will fail

Relations with Arabs / Arab tribes will worsen

Another Turkish intervention becomes more likely

If PKK links with the YPG/PYD are publicly denounced, YPG/PYD control could relax somewhat because:

Intra-Kurdish negotiations could succeed if a workable power-sharing agreement with the KNC can be negotiated

Relations with Arab tribes could improve if non-Syrian and most non-Arab SDF withdraw from this area

If PKK influence on YPG/PYD strategic decision making is practically delinked, the YPG/PYD can become more legitimate because:

Intra-Kurdish negotiations could fully succeed

Relations with Arabs / Arab tribes could improve

The risk of another Turkish intervention would be reduced

Governance effect

More autocratic governance

Status quo governance with a plus

Less autocratic governance

(2) Intra-Kurdish negotiations

If negotiations fail, YPG/PYD governance will likely remain authoritarian with consultative elements

If negotiations continue in a holding pattern, time can be gained to avert a Turkish incursion and develop a larger deal

If negotiations succeed, a more inclusive basis for governance can be developed

Governance effect

Status quo governance

Status quo governance

Less autocratic governance

(3) Longer-term US role in Syria

If the US leaves entirely, a Russia/regime and Turkish take-over of northeast Syria is a real possibility

If the US withdraws more troops while reaching a broader deal including the KNC, KDP and Turkey, the YPG might relent in its control; if it just partially withdraws, greater territorial fragmentation and violence are likely

If the US combines a long-term stay – or over the horizon security guarantee – with diplomatic pressure to reach a feasible deal, a more stable and inclusive situation can arise

Governance effect

End of any Syrian Kurdish self governance

YPG governance diminishes or less autocratic governance

Less autocratic governance

(4) Relations with Arabs / Arab tribes

If YPG/PYD repression of Arab tribes increases through the SDF/SDC, unrest will increase and regime overtures have a better chance of succeeding

If YPG/PYD control and consultations with Arab tribes via the SDF/SDC, continue, unrest will remain but not escalate given limited tribal leverage

If an intra-Kurdish deal can be reached, this might pave the way towards joint Arab-Kurdish governance of the area

Governance effect

More autocratic governance

Status quo governance

Less autocratic governance

Potential longer-term consequences

Leads to a stubborn effort to hang on to ‘Rojava’ under YPG/PYD repressive dominance

Maintains an uncertain status quo in which sudden events may trigger new instability

Opens the door to Western support (US + Europe) with less risk of Turkish invasion

(*) Negative/neutral/positive are related to the nature and quality of governance that is likely to ensue.

The future of the YPG/PYD’s relationship with the PKK

As has become clear from the preceding analysis, there are strong ties between the YPG/PYD and PKK at the level of ideology, leadership and rank and file. For example, several interviewees suggested that Aldar Xelil and Mazloum Abdi, who fulfill prominent roles in the PYD and SDF respectively, are still members of the PKK leadership in Qandil. In fact, they use their PKK names. The real name of Aldar Xelil is Fahim Walid Xelil and the real name of Mazloum Abdi is Mustafa Abdi. It is moreover public knowledge that non-Syrian PKK advisers can be found throughout the SDF and SDC, but also that entire contingents of non-Syrian Kurdish PKK fighters are present in northeastern Syria. Such advisers often have an outsized influence. An Assyrian politician in Qamishli for example told us: ‘Once we needed a decision on a sensitive matter and they let us meet with a Turkish Kurd, with a translator as he did not know Arabic, and he had to take the decision.’[175] As the Crisis Group recently noted: ‘According to Kobani, thousands of PKK-trained Kurdish fighters, alongside volunteer fighters, descended into Syria to join the battle. Hundreds were killed in the fight, some left, others stayed, and many pursued a civilian life.’[176] As discussed in Section 1, PKK networks, funds and manpower have been a core ingredient of YPG/PYD growth in Syria.

Today, this relationship is increasingly controversial as it is considered a foreign imposition by many inhabitants of northeast Syria and a risk by the US, KNC and Turkey. In consequence, there is increasing pressure on the YPG/PYD to cut these ties. Within the YPG/PYD/PKK itself, there appear to be two strains of thought. One, led by Mazloum Kobani, seems to be willing to explore options for creating greater distance from the PKK if the benefits of doing so are more positive than the inevitable loss of manpower and control. Another, led by Cemil Bayik, seeks to maintain the current relationship to uphold YPG/PYD power to deter Turkey and use it as leverage in negotiations with the Syrian regime.

On the face of it, the relationship with the PKK has become a liability, mostly because of the risk of (a) new Turkish offensive(s) that the SDF is clearly not able to counter and which both Moscow and Washington have greenlighted on several occasions. Moreover, if the SDF/SDC are serious about their concept of democratic federalism, the PKK connection is also a liability in the sense that it prevents a democratic redesign of the Self-Administration in such a way that the KNC, Arabs / Arab tribes in SDF-held areas and the Assyrian opposition want to engage with it.[177] But the long history of repression of Kurdish communities throughout the region, the ravages of the Syrian civil war and the uncertainties of the future also suggest that it could be useful to retain close ties with an armed organisation connected by ideology and a shared identity.

In addition, while non-Syrian PKK fighters can withdraw from Syria if the YPG and PKK agree on such a move, it is not clear how the immaterial dimension of the relationship (ideology, identity) can be severed. Even though Mazloum Kobani has signalled his willingness to negotiate with Turkey on several occasions, it is not clear that Turkey is interested.[178] If Ankara continues to see the YPG as a PKK franchise even after non-Syrian PKK forces have left Syria, a significant benefit of such a move for the YPG/PYD would be lost. Hence, the question of PKK withdrawal from Syria is closely tied to the prospects of some kind of deal with Turkey that is currently unlikely as its offensives against the PKK in Iraq intensify. The US is currently seeking to resolve this dilemma via intra-Kurdish negotiations but the KNC has the same requirement of PKK withdrawal as Turkey. While the KNC can increase YPG/PYD’s legitimacy, it has little influence over Turkey’s policy. In brief, intra-Kurdish negotiations, PKK withdrawal, and a deal with Turkey are only likely to progress in tandem, if at all.

Intra Syrian Kurdish unity talks

An agreement between the YPG/PYD and the KNC on some form of joint governance of Syria’s northeast would have advantages that include achieving a greater degree of limited local legitimacy (mostly among Kurds and some Assyrian groups), mitigating Turkey’s threat perception of the YPG/PYD as a PKK franchise, and opening the door to the possibility of Western support. The major disadvantage is that such an approach does not include the Arab populations of the northeast, which are the majority, even though the US intends such accommodation as a next step. Even negotiating a durable intra-Kurdish agreement that could actually be implemented has so far proven to be elusive. There are at least three core issues that have so far been impossible to surmount: a) implementing a functional power sharing formula for governance, b) agreeing functional yet jointly run military structures (including e.g. command and control), and c) the future of YPG/PYD relations with the PKK and regime.

Reaching a durable agreement has not been elusive for want of trying. Given that the YPG/PYD’s early rise to dominance in northeast Syria put it in a fairly comfortable position, it has been chiefly Masoud Barzani (then president of Iraqi Kurdistan) who has led negotiation efforts to explore power-sharing formulas. The three separate pacts that the YPG/PYD and KNC have made to date – the 2012 Erbil 1 agreement (the original), the 2013 Erbil 2 agreement (a renewed bid to implement Erbil 1)[179] and the 2014 Duhok agreement[180] – were fairly successful in reducing hostile media campaigns, although some still occur, and in reducing incidental violence between Kurdish factions – but fell apart on the core issues indicated.[181] Apart from the skewed negotiation positions that made compromise unattractive to the YPG/PYD, mutually hostile perceptions in a context of regional power competition played a major role in the failure of these agreements. These perceptions include:

The YPG/PYD, as well as a number of pro-YPG/PYD observers, frame the KNC as linked to Barzani and Barzani as linked to Turkey.[182] This is even though the KNC has condemned Turkish interventions and interference in northeast Syria on several occasions.[183]

As Ankara has been the driving force behind dismantling the YPG/PYD’s Rojava project through its various military incursions, and given existing ties between Turkey and the KDP, the YPG/PYD also fears greater Turkish influence via Barzani.[184]

The KNC and KDP view YPG/PYD links with the PKK as problematic and demand severance of such ties.

On a final note, the PKK has regularly blocked or vetoed YPG/PYD – KNC negotiations without, however, directly participating itself. As one of our interviewees put it: ‘In October 2014, I was in the hotel in Duhok. Sinam Mohamed was there, Salih Muslim, Brett McGurk and Aldar Xelil. The negotiations lasted for hours, and every time they came out of the room, they had to report back to Cemil Bayik (PKK in Qandil). Several of the attendees there told me this was happening all the time.’[185] The KDP seems to have given up on these unity talks after several attempts to unite the Syrian Kurdish parties.

Along the border with Turkey between Amouda and Ras al-Ain
Along the border with Turkey between Amouda and Ras al-Ain

In other words, the positive resolution of disunity among Syria’s Kurds requires a broader geopolitical agreement that also brings Turkey and the KDP to the table in some form of guarantor role and which takes account of some PKK interests to prevent it from acting as a spoiler. In this context, it is encouraging that one point from the Erbil 1 agreement (2012) has mostly held. The YPG/PYD has not used northern Syria as a launchpad for direct attacks on Turkey, despite Ankara’s claims to the contrary (rather, the PKK uses northeast Syria as a resource of funds and recruitment).[186]

This did not, however, stop Turkey from initiating Operation Peace Spring in 2019, which not only seized control of area strip of land along the Turkish-Syrian frontier, including the Arab town of Tel Abyad and the Arab/Kurdish town of Ra’s al-Ain, but also forced YPG forces away from the border (although Asayish forces have remained active). Ankara’s incursion demonstrated once again that the YPG/SDF have no hope of stopping the Turkish military and the Syrian brigades on Ankara’s payroll by itself without US support. It is therefore no surprise that Mazloum Abdi launched an initiative to unite Syria’s Kurds shortly after the offensive. Under such pressure, some speculated that the YPG/PYD might be more inclined to make the necessary compromises that it was not willing to consider during previous informal talks in Paris and The Hague.[187]

From November 2019 onwards, SDF commander Mazloum Abdi and KNC representative Mohamed Ismail, and from April 2020 their delegations, met a few times in a hotel just outside Hasaka in Tel Baidar under the auspices of a US representative (the US has a military base near the Hasaka Dam). On 16 June 2020, SDF commander Abdi tweeted: ‘We are proud of the joint work of the Kurdish National Council (KNC) and the Kurdish National Unity parties, as their work to reach an initial agreement is a source of joy.’[188] A day later, however, a key KNC negotiator told one of the authors of this report that there was no agreement yet. In his words: ‘These are understandings, but there’s not an agreement. One understanding is that we accomplished a political vision in a binding way, and we got to an understanding that the Duhok Agreement is the base we can build upon for a dialogue in the future.’[189]

In other words, appreciable differences remain. Interviews with KNC leaders indicate the following sticking points (parallel inquiries with PYD/SDF spokespersons went unanswered):

Table 4
Differences in political outlook and methods between the KNC and YPG/PYD




Attitude towards Syrian regime

Part of the revolution against Assad

Informal arrangement with the regime, repressing the revolution and trading with the regime

Attitude towards methods to bring about political change

Looking for a political solution without repression

A political solution can be negotiated from a position of coercive dominance[190]

Broader alliances

Part of the national opposition; creation ‘Peace and Freedom Front’[191]

Not part of the national opposition; recent MoU with the ‘People’s Will Party’[192]

Local rootedness

A Syrian Kurdish political party and civic movement

Strategically linked with the PKK

Attitude towards pluralism

Tolerant of political pluralism, transparent about its agenda

Intolerant of political pluralism, secretive about its agenda, represses political competition

Note: When considering these points, it should be born in mind that they reflect the KNC perspective and that the YPG/PYD has a substantial territory to govern in times of war.

In a sense, the following exchange is illustrative of the different wavelengths on which the YPG/PYD and KNC speak to each other. On Syria TV, PYD leader Aldar Xelil stated: ‘We are on the ground, they’re outside Syria [about the KNC and the Syrian opposition].’ KNC leader Ibrahim Biro (based in Erbil) responded by saying: ‘They [the YPG] arrested and expelled me from northeast Syria and threatened to kill me if I returned.’[193] Aldar Xelil went on to state that ‘the PYD advocates for a third way neither with the regime nor with the opposition. Its democratic project is for the whole of Syria.’ The KNC responded that ‘the Syrian opposition also has a democracy project for the whole of Syria, we don’t need a new PYD plan. While both focus on Kurdish areas and interests, the PYD ridicules the opposition while the KNC works with it, since they see the Assad regime as the biggest problem. Aldar Xelil says in the same TV interview that his Kurdish identity comes first before his Syrian identity. Some KNC members told us that for them it is the other way round, they are Syrian first and then Kurdish.

Differences such as those highlighted in Table 4 do not yet include the views of the Arab populations that populate much of the Euphrates river valley and parts of northern Syria such as Tel Abyad and Rumeilan. For example, tribal leaders from the Baggara and Ogeidat have expressed frustration at being excluded from ‘Kurdish unity talks’, even though these two tribal confederations alone cover roughly 90 per cent of the province of Deir Ezzor. Some tribal sheikhs in Raqqa and Hasaka province have raised the same objection, although these areas are more mixed.[194]

In any case, the current round of KNC – PYD talks were halted at the time of writing even though they had been set to resume in February 2021.[195] Key reasons for the current pause are the mix of PYD delegation leader Aldar Xelil’s negative public statement on the Rosh Peshmerga, a series of recent arrests of teachers and a journalist in Debersiya, Amouda and Rumeilan (some of whom have been released), and the burning of a number of KNC offices.[196] According to KNC leader Abdel Hakim al-Bashar, Aldar Xelil is the leader of the PYD/YPG, not Mazloum. A colleague of his framed it as follows: “They [PYD] are not with the intra-Syrian Kurdish talks, they want to get legitimacy from the KNC, legitimacy via Syrian Kurdish coordination. I think this was the proposal of the Americans. In order to realize their policy in Eastern Euphrates, they have to work with other Kurdish parties”. Abdolaziz Tammo, head of the Association for Independent Kurds, added: “But the PKK’s policy [Authors’ note: on dissent] in Turkey is well known and if you have a different opinion, they will kill you. Therefore it is not possible to have a different opinion from that of the PKK”.[197]

Recent developments suggest that Mazloum Abdi is in favour of pursuing intra-Syrian Kurdish talks and finding a form of compromise, while PYD-leader Aldar Xelil appears to be opposed to such a course of action. Either way, the KNC indicated that the issues flagged above need to be resolved to produce a more conducive climate in which negotiations can resume. While they hang by a thread,[198] as long as negotiations can be said to take place they offer some protection from a new Turkish operation.[199]

The US presence in northeastern Syria

Today, northeast Syria is a patchwork of armed forces in addition to YPG/SDF forces. While the US presence dominates, especially in the eastern part near the Iraqi border at the oilfields of Rumeilan and Deir Ezzor, the Russians are strung out along parts of the Syrian/Turkish border[200], as are the Turks. There even seems to be a minor Iranian presence at Qamishli airport. The regime remains present in Qamishli, Hasaka, and at Qamishli Airport, and is back on the border in other places. According to many interviewees, its intelligence services have never left much of the northeast but work from home. Regime, Iranians and IS cells try to infiltrate the eastern part of Deir Ezzor where relations between the SDF and Arab inhabitants are frayed. Moreover, IS and regime cells remain a constant low-level threat throughout the area, tapping into growing frustrations among its population, even though IS is mostly reconstituting further west in the Badia desert which is under regime control.[201]

This mosaic has been further expanded by the combination of the October 2019 Turkish incursion that the US greenlighted and America’s own abrupt withdrawals in December 2018 and October 2019. The first executive withdrawal order of December 2018 led to the resignation of former Defence Secretary Jim Mattis. It also catapulted James Jeffrey, then Trump’s special envoy for Syria, into the role of special envoy in the fight against IS when his predecessor, Brett McGurk, also resigned in protest. The second executive withdrawal order of October 2019 was as divisive and disputed as the first, but also left a residual US force in Syria. In a straight-talking interview, former envoy Jeffrey even suggested that ‘We were always playing shell games to not make clear to our leadership how many troops we had there. The actual number of troops in northeast Syria is “a lot more than” the 200 troops Trump agreed to leave there in 2019.’[202]

70 more kilometers to go to the city of Qamishli
70 more kilometers to go to the city of Qamishli

Whatever the truth of the matter, US troops still operate in Syria today in support of the SDF, chiefly to deny Russian and Syrian forces further territorial gains, to help prevent IS reconstituting, and to block Iranian land routes. The 2018 and 2019 American semi-retreats have, however, made the situation in the northern part of northeast Syria more volatile by increasing both risk and likelihood of another Turkish incursion, eviscerating the YPG/SDF’s ability to control its northern frontier with Turkey and protect the Kurdish communities straddled alongside it (in Debersiya for instance), encouraging regime-linked forces to intensify their efforts to win over Arab tribes east of the Euphrates, and distracting the YPG/SDF from working with the Arab tribes in keeping IS down.[203] In short, whatever coherence and order existed, both US withdrawals dented it – despite protestations by envoy Jeffrey along the lines of ‘What Syria withdrawal? There was never a Syria withdrawal.’[204] The US was seen to withdraw and that was what mattered.

This explains in part why until recently there was heavy US pressure on the YPG/PYD and the KNC to reach an agreement in the intra-Syrian Kurdish talks discussed previously. In Washington’s view, such an agreement could stabilise the situation in three ways: a) by creating a more inclusive Syrian Kurdish platform as a stepping stone towards greater Arab and minority inclusion; b) by shifting the SDC/PYD towards the Syrian opposition (Etilaf) and c) by reducing the risk of another Turkish offensive, although this also requires the additional step of cutting ties between the PKK and YPG/PYD. [205]

Arab populations

At present, roughly 70 per cent of the population under YPG-led SDF control are Syrian Arabs. As one Assyrian representative put it, ‘Everything under the M4 [motorway]’.. This population is partly organised along tribal lines of varying intensity (stronger in rural areas, less so or absent in urban areas – with the exception of Deir Ezzor).[206] Unsurprisingly, there are also political activists, intelligentsia and urban populations with only nominal tribal links, or none at all. Some tribal/clan leaders and other prominent individuals have been included in the PYD/YPG-run SDC civil and SDF military councils, while an appreciable number of Arab fighters have been recruited into the SDF in part for lack of other job opportunities). In essence, the YPG/PYD uses a model of indirect rule via the co-optation of tribal figures that helps to legitimise its governance and mediate disputes. Not everyone is willing to join, however. The Deir Ezzor area, especially, features notable exceptions.

Moreover, as Dukhan, notes: ‘The allegiance of tribal elders is mutable. The same tribal leaders in Raqqa who in October 2017 declared their support for the SDF had previously appeared in a 2013 video pledging allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Some had even pledged their allegiance to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in 2011.’[207] To put it slightly differently, in the words of a tribal representative: ‘They [SDF] have the weapons and the Samalka border crossing. The tribes do not. They [SDF] are very powerful. Tribes survive by bending towards the one who rules them – in a regime area the regime, in an SDF area the SDF, and those who fled to Turkey, Turkey.’[208] In other words, they are a mechanism for collective survival.

Despite the use of co-optation mechanisms, the YPG/PYD keeps crucial issues firmly in its own hands, including the level and allocation of oil revenues, military deployments, public law and order, and negotiations with both the US and KNC.[209] An Arab representative from the area now living in exile recently questioned the situation in the following manner: ‘France and the US are pressuring Arabs, the Kurdish KNC, and others in the area to support the PYD. But now, we [Arab tribes] have no idea what happens with the oil revenues [Rumeilan and Deir Ezzor]. And we know how the PYD dealt with the revolution.’[210]

In addition, existing consultation mechanisms do not necessarily strike the right tone or achieve the necessary consensus. For instance, in early November 2020, the SDC organised a third Dialogue, the ‘National Conference of inhabitants of the Jazira and Euphrates’, in the Deir Ezzor countryside. An SDC leader, Elham Ahmad, talked about reconciliation with the Assad regime. But participants appear to have rejected the notion because of their suffering at the hands of the regime and IS, persistent insecurity, and the regime’s lack of recognition of the SDF. ‘How can you get involved in a dialogue with a side that does not acknowledge us, but describes us as terrorists?’[211]

Unsurprisingly, YPG/SDF dominance has generated protests, especially in Deir Ezzor province among the key tribal confederations of the Ogeidat and the Baggara. According to a sheikh of the Ogeidat tribe, such protests are possible because the YPG/SDF rules with ‘less of an iron fist’ in Deir Ezzor than it does in Hasaka.[212] But the sense of exclusion underpinning such protests has nevertheless been further reinforced by the negative reception of forced conscription (see ‘coercive strategies’), efforts to introduce the new curriculum (see ‘identity strategies’), a range of security incidents involving respected sheikhs,[213] and the rough treatment of a number of tribal communities by SDF forces in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor.[214] Protests must be considered in a context of poor living conditions – ‘there is now often no water and no electricity. Half of the schools are still closed’[215] – and deteriorating security due to greater IS activity and a limited ability or, at times, unwillingness on the part of the SDF to assure local safety. For example, according to a sheikh of the Ogeidat, Kurdish forces do not remain in Ogeidat tribal villages and lands at night but withdraw into their camps or bases. Instead of pushing for more engagement with Syria’s eastern tribes on the basis of equality, akin to Iraq’s ‘Awakening’ back in 2007–2010, the US has so far supported the YPG/PYD in its approach of nominal co-optation via the SDF/SDC while retaining real control for itself.[216]

Interview with an Assyrian politician, 1 October 2019, Qamishli.
See also: ICG, The SDF Seeks a Path Toward Durable Stability in North East Syria, Brussels: ICG, 2020, online.
On the other hand, if this concept is more like window dressing, the KNC and Arabs / Arab tribes are probably much less relevant in YPG/PYD deliberations as long as the cost of not accommodating them remains manageable. These costs consist of the risk of US departure (low until the new US administration has recalibrated its Syria policy), another Turkish offensive (currently low–medium due to US presence) and growing armed tribal resistance (currently low due to fragmentation).
See Zaman, A., SDF commander says Kurds ready for dialogue if Ankara is sincere, Al-Monitor, 2020a, online; Zaman (2020b), op.cit.
The Erbil 2 agreement also sought to enable a unified delegation to join the Geneva-II negotiations. Yet, the YPG/PYD appears to have manipulated the situation to its benefit by using the time between the agreement and Geneva-II to transport personnel, equipment and resources from Qandil via the Samalka crossing (linking Iraqi and Syrian Kurdistan), rescinding it shortly after Geneva-II. Source: Omran (2018), op.cit.
Kajjo (2020), op.cit.; Mulla Rashid in Omran Center for Strategic Studies (2018), op.cit
See also, for instance Allsop (2014), op.cit.
See, for example Kurdistan24, 2016, online (accessed 2 December 2020).
For instance: Yildiz, G., The US pushes for Kurdish unity in Syria with Turkish hostility and future Syria talks in mind, Middle East Institute, 2020, online; Wahab (2017), op.cit.
Interview with a Syrian journalist in the US via a WhatsApp call in April 2020.
Kajjo (2020), op.cit.; Van Veen, Yüksel and Tekines (2020), op.cit.
Interview with an Assyrian politician from Qamishli in Istanbul, 14 November 2020.
See: link (accessed 14 December 2020).
The ‘joint understanding’ can be seen here: link (accessed 22 November 2020).
In times of war, an obvious sticking point is the control over armed forces. The YPG/PYD only agrees to let the 3–4,000 strong Rosh Peshmerga (an armed group under KNC control) into northeast Syria under its direct command or as individual fighters. Yet, alternatives could be considered, such as a mixed command structure or mixed units.
Netjes and Hauch (2020), op.cit.
See: link (accessed 2 December 2020).
The entire broadcast can be watched here: الجزيرة السورية والمصير المنتظر | الصالون السياسي, link (accessed 22 November 2020).
Arab tribal representative from Gaziantep on Syria TV, 16 June 2019.
Besides the ongoing negotiation process, the KNC and PYD recently undertook additional unity initiatives. The KNC co-founded the ‘Peace and Freedom Front’ in late July, which includes Syria’s Tomorrow Movement, the Arab Council of the Euphrates and the Jazira, and the Assyrian Democratic Organization, while the PYD-led Syrian Democratic Council signed a memorandum in Moscow with a Russian-backed Syrian party close to Damascus. See: Netjes and Hauch (2020), op.cit.
See: link (accessed 14 February 2021); Interview with a representative of the Association of Independent Kurds, 22 January 2021, Istanbul.
Interviews on 22 January 2021, Istanbul.
See: link (accessed 16 February 2021).
Bedir Mulla, a Syrian Kurdish analyst, on Syria TV on 1 November 2020.
See: link (accessed 9 March 2021).
Koontz, K. and G. Waters, Between the coalition, ISIS and Assad: Courting the tribes of Deir ez-Zor, Washington: Middle East Institute, 2020.
See: link (accessed 23 November 2020).
Derived in part from an interview with an Assyrian political representative in Istanbul on 14 November 2020; see also: Netjes and Hauch (2020), op.cit.
For a short overview of the main Kurdish and Arab tribes in northeast Syria: link (accessed 26 February 2021) (AR).
Dukhan (2020), op.cit.
Interview with a representative of the Al-Baggara tribe, Sanliurfa, 8 August 2020.
See also: Koontz and Waters (2020), op.cit.
Syria TV, program: ‘The Political Salon’ on 20 June 2020.
See: link (accessed 23 November 2020).
Interview with a sheikh of the Ogeidat tribe in April 2020, by WhatsApp voice messages.
Such as the villages of Basra, al-Shuhail, al-Zir, Abrieh and Ogeidat al-Jadeed.
Interview with a tribal source close to Hachem al-Bashir (tribal chief of the Baggara).
Dukhan, H. and A. Al-Hamad, Fragmentation and perceived bias: The shortcomings of US policy towards tribes in Syria, Atlantic Council, online, 2021.