What do Mazloum Abdi’s actions hold for the future of the Euphrates region?

Mazloum Abdi's meeting with the elders of Deir Ezzor - 15 July 2020 (SDF)

Mazloum Abdi's meeting with the elders of Deir Ezzor - 15 July 2020 (SDF)


Enab Baladi – Ali Darwish

The actions of Mazloum Abdi, the commander of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have been active in recent weeks after the first stage of the Kurdish-Kurdish dialogue has proven to be a remarkable success, and with the start of the second stage, as announced late May. 

Mazloum Abdi met with the elders and notables of the Arab tribes in the SDF-controlled areas in northeastern Syria, and he met with General Kenneth F.Mckenzie, the commander of the United States Central forces, and General Alexander Chayko, the commander of the Russian forces in Syria during this July. 

With the European and American support, the SDF started to take some steps aimed at bringing the views of the Syrian Kurdish parties and ending the rifts of estrangement and distrust among the rival parties, especially between the parties of Democratic Union Party (PYD) and the Kurdish National Council (KNC). 

The Kurdish-Kurdish meetings came after an initiative launched by Abdi on 9 October 2019, which included the removal of legal obstacles to the KNC in the areas under the control of the SDF, which Turkey considers a separatist movement and an extension of Turkey’s Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). It is worth mentioning that PKK is banned and listed as a terrorist organization in Turkey, while the KNC enjoys a consensus with Ankara. 

Several meetings were held between the Kurdish parties, without disclosing their outcomes, but they are sponsored by some countries, especially France and the United States of America.

 Arab component’s fear of the Kurdish-Kurdish dialogue: Cooperating with the SDF is the safest solution 

The researcher at the “Omran Center for Strategic Studie,” specializing in Kurdish affairs, Bedir Mulla Rashid, in his speech to Enab Baladi, explained that behind the frequent meetings between Abdi, the elders and nobles of the tribes are several reasons, and with the start of the Kurdish-Kurdish dialogues, tension increased in the Arab regions within the “Kurdish-led Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (NES).” There is a concern that the Kurdish-Kurdish dialogues will be at the expense of the Arabs in the region.

The NES announced the imposition of certain school curricula, which have received a popular rejection, whether from the Kurds or the Arabs. This also has resulted in increasing tension especially in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor, where its residents and school teachers took to the streets and demonstrated against the curricula. 

Currently, it is obvious that the SDF leadership, with the continued American support, has so far been able to accommodate some of the Arab tribes’ concerns, as a major part of these tribes refuses to live under the control of the Syrian regime. Thus, the SDF remains for them an acceptable alternative until another type of agreement to manage the area occurs,  according to researcher Bedir Mulla Rashid.

Mazloum Abdi has held several meetings with delegations from the Arab tribes, during the past two weeks, in order to discuss the developments of the region.

The most recent meeting was carried out on 18 July. Abdi held a meeting with the elders and dignitaries of the “Bakara” Arab tribe. 

Earlier, he met with the tribal elders of the Deir Ezzor region on 15 July, and during the meeting, the tribal elders requested that the SDF should tighten up security and maintain stability in the areas of Deir Ezzor, and in particular al-Shuhayl in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor, amid fears over the return of the so-called Islamic State’s cells in the region. 

On 4 July, Abdi met with the tribal elders of the city of Raqqa. They touched on the economic and living conditions in the city, the importance of  tightening the security grip in the areas in contact with the Syrian government-held areas, and reviewing the file of prisoners, “who do not have people’s blood on their hands.”

Furthermore, on 22 June, Abdi met with the dignitaries and elders of the tribes of al-Tabqah town in the city of Raqqa, according to data issued by the official website of the SDF. 

Russia and America maneuvering to ensure greater influence in Syria

According to Bedir Mulla Rashid, Russia is attempting to reach an agreement with the SDF leadership in order to grant it greater influence in the region at the expense of the United States of America, this point, in specific, was one of the main reasons for the visit of the General Kenneth F.Mckenzie, the commander of the United States Central forces to Abdi on 11 July in addition to the security file.

On the other hand, the Russian side, for its part, is trying to increase its influence and authority in the region whether by trying to form a military faction from the tribes of the region or by pushing some of the Syrian regime’s loyalists to disturb the American patrols or by the Russian patrols are carrying out this mission.

The Russians are doing their best to agree with the SDF to reduce the American side’s control over the region in exchange for granting them a broader local authority.

However, the United States of America and Russia maintain a delicate balance of power in the region, according to the researcher.

As for the “SDF”, there are several factors through which it maintained good relations with Russia and America, including its military discipline, and its preference in principle to line up with the Global Coalition to Defeat the “Islamic State.”

At the same time, the SDF avoids classifying the Syrian regime, the Russian ally, as a party that must be fought, but cooperation with the regime can take place if the United States decides to withdraw completely. The “SDF” sees Russia as a great power that can push the regime to recognize it as some form of autonomy.

To date, the United States is still the main body that controls a large proportion of the SDF’s decisions due to the fact that the United States came up with the idea of forming the SDF and made it the local ally of the Global Coalition to Defeat the “ Islamic State,” as the United States provides much of the military budget for the SDF.


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