Kurdish Parties Differ over Return of Syrian Peshmerga

Kurdish Peshmerga fighters. (AFP file photo)
Kurdish Peshmerga fighters. (AFP file photo)
TT

Kurdish Parties Differ over Return of Syrian Peshmerga

Kurdish Peshmerga fighters. (AFP file photo)
Kurdish Peshmerga fighters. (AFP file photo)

The second round of discussions among US-sponsored Kurdish political parties tackled defense and protection affairs and how to allow Syrian Peshmerga forces to deploy in Kurdish regions in northeastern Syria, revealed informed Kurdish sources.

The Kurdish National Council and the Kurdish National Unity Parties met earlier this month at the international coalition base in al-Hasakeh. The meeting was attended by commander of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Mazloum Abdi.

The defense and protection file is witnessing major challenges and has raised doubts about whether the seven-month long Kurdish talks will yield positive results. This is the thorniest issue because the Peshmerga – the armed wing of the Syrian Kurdish National Council – has since its formation in 2012 been deployed in the neighboring Iraqi Kurdistan Region. The Peshmerga is comprised of Kurdish defectors from the Syrian regime army and volunteers from Kurdish regions.

Leading commander of the force said it comprises some 7,000 fighters, none of whom have fired a single shot in Syria.

“We did not take part in battle inside Syria, but when ISIS attacked the Kurdistan region in mid-2014, we were forced to join the fighting and we lost several martyrs,” he added.

A prominent official in the Kurdish council said the Peshmerga are estimated at 15,000 members, including 7,000 fighters and 8,000 recruits.

The Kurdish sources described the ongoing negotiations between the Kurdish parties as “very complicated and sensitive”. They cited the difficulties in returning the Peshmerga amid the deployment of a second major Kurdish force, the People’s Protection Units (YPG). The YPG are the military backbone of the SDF that controls the majority of regions east of the Euphrates River and receives support from the international coalition to fight ISIS.

Any Kurdish deployment needs to take into account threats from Turkey amid its rejection of the presence of such forces near its borders.

The return of the Peshmerga will require an international agreement between the countries deployed east of the Euphrates.

According to the Kurdish official, their return hinges on a comprehensive intra-Kurdish agreement being reached, which includes defense and protection and that they play real role as partner. It also hinges on an international agreement, with UN sponsorship, and understandings being reached between Moscow and Washington. Most importantly, regional armies involved in the war, especially Turkey, must keep out of the area.



Lebanon Prepares Health, Social Plan Amid War Risks

A Lebanese inspects homes destroyed by Israeli airstrikes in the town of Khiam in southern Lebanon (AFP)
A Lebanese inspects homes destroyed by Israeli airstrikes in the town of Khiam in southern Lebanon (AFP)
TT

Lebanon Prepares Health, Social Plan Amid War Risks

A Lebanese inspects homes destroyed by Israeli airstrikes in the town of Khiam in southern Lebanon (AFP)
A Lebanese inspects homes destroyed by Israeli airstrikes in the town of Khiam in southern Lebanon (AFP)

Lebanese political and diplomatic efforts to calm tensions between Hezbollah and Israel in southern Lebanon have not eased fears of a potential all-out war. This has led Lebanese ministries to prepare for the worst.

Firas Abyad, the Minister of Public Health in the caretaker government, stated that his ministry has activated a war emergency plan and increased readiness among medical teams.

The Ministry of Social Affairs has also developed strategies to mitigate the impact and respond if a conflict erupts.

“We have a four-month supply of medicines. We’ve strengthened our energy sources like fuel, electricity, and the internet. We’ve also trained our staff for wartime conditions and expect hundreds of thousands to be displaced internally,” said Abyad a few days ago.

A source from the Ministry of Health explained that proactive measures taken in anticipation of potential conflict aim to avoid unexpected situations like those experienced in 2006.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat under the condition of anonymity, the source mentioned that Abyad has been actively involved in refining contingency plans.

“The minister has been actively involved in refining this preparedness plan for months, regularly updating it. We’re also coordinating with international bodies for assistance, which has been positively received,” revealed the source.

The source emphasized that while emergency plans aren’t based on specific war warnings, it’s crucial for the ministry, along with other government bodies, to remain prepared for any unforeseen events.

The source affirmed that the ministry is readying government hospitals, particularly emergency and operating rooms, and coordinating closely with private hospitals.

The ministry is also identifying suitable spots for field hospitals to handle emergencies, providing quick aid to the injured. Additionally, it’s preparing ambulance teams to be available 24/7.

Brig. Gen. Mohammed al-Kheir, the head of Lebanon’s Higher Relief Commission, assured Asharq Al-Awsat that HRC is fully prepared to handle any developments.

He emphasized their focus on providing food, bedding, and supplies to displaced people, particularly those currently fleeing from the south.

Al-Kheir mentioned that the commission operates within its modest annual budget and receives additional aid, including medicines for the Ministry of Health and government hospitals.

For security reasons, he declined to reveal the locations of new shelters or aid storage centers to prevent them from being targeted.