The arrest in a Prague hotel of former Syrian Kurdish PYD (Democratic Union Party) leader Saleh Muslim Muhammad is a test case. Its outcome will establish the extent to which the central role against Islamic State played by Syrian Kurds has accrued some broader political legitimacy for their leadership and organizations.
he Syrian Kurds declared the establishment of the “Democratic Federation of Northern Syria” over their area of control in March, 2016.
No Western country has recognized or acknowledged this declaration. The Federation, which is today the governing structure in an area where US forces are located, remains entirely isolated diplomatically, even as its armed forces call in US air strikes and work on a daily basis with American Special Forces.
The ties between the PYD and the PKK are at the root of this. The latter has for the last 34 years been engaged in an insurgency against Turkey, demanding autonomy for the country’s Kurds. It is listed as a terrorist organization by both the US and the European Union. Turkey’s warrant against Saleh Muslim, a non-citizen of Turkey, depicts him as a militant member of the PKK.
The question now is whether the involvement of the PYD with the war against IS has acquired a degree of de facto legitimacy for it in the eyes of the West, even in the absence of formal political recognition.
If so, Western pressure on the Czech Republic will lead almost certainly to Muslim’s release, indicating an embryonic, unspoken political alliance now existing between the Syrian Kurdish leadership and the West. This will produce further fury on the part of NATO-member Turkey’s Islamist and increasingly authoritarian leadership.