Dr. Jamil: There is no place for “Federalism” and “Autonomy” in Syria, and We are with a “Centralized – Decentralized” System.
Channel and website Carpel MEDYA made a long interview with Dr. Kadri Jamil on September 10. In the interview, Dr. Seve Izouli discussed with Dr. Jamil the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the People’s Will Party and the Syrian Democratic Council. They also discussed the circumstance in which it was formulated, signing it, the stances of different forces on it, and what can be based on it later.
Kassioun publishes hereunder extracts from this interview, taking note that the full video is available on Kassioun’s official website, and the full text of the interview will be published on the website in the coming days.
Why was the Memorandum signed now? Why has not this happened before?
The objective circumstances have matured so we managed to do what we did. Two months ago, it was not matured enough. We needed to reach a conviction about all issues, and in order for those convictions to be created, we have to go through the experience of trial and error so we can conclude what we should do. From the first moment, we, in the People’s Will Party and the Front for Change and Liberation, said to our comrades in the SDC: do not believe the Americans, the Americans are hypocrites and liars, and they will abandon you when things become serious. This is what happened in Tell Abiad, and what was probably going to happen in other places. Americans are declaring their intention to withdraw from Iraq and Syria, so, what did the military forces that represent SDC do? Americans applied on them the song that said “you got us half way through the well, then you cut the rope” (you hung us out to dry), as they got them involved with troubles with the regime, and against the Turks, and against other parties from the inside, then bailed on them.
But had it not been for the US support, ISIS would have devoured us all…
What had held ISIS back was the heroic resistance of the SDF since the battle of Kobane. The Kurds fought alone in Kobane. Where were the Americans back then? There were forces other than the US forces that were ready to support, however, there weren't any well-evolved agreements back then, and there was caution, suspicion, mistrust and so on. I will not talk about details, there will come a day when we will talk a lot about it concerning the issue of fighting ISIS.
Yes, the Americans were not there from the beginning, but they responded later on and parachuted weapons from aircrafts. Why did Russians and the regime not come to the aid of the Kurds?
I do not agree with this, it is inaccurate, and I know the chronicles and facts. However, some, unfortunately, thought like what Sadat had thought, that 99% of the leverage is with the Americans, hence, those who had thought in the same way did not want to approach anyone else but the Americans, and they were wrong about that, and today they admit their mistake. I do not think that the Russians saved any effort, they indicated their willingness to help but did not find any compliance from the persons concerned as required and at the required level. The historical experience tells us that the Americans are liars and cannot be trusted; they do not have a friend, and they have made politics and warfare their business. Thus, in my opinion, whoever believed the Americans back then, has a problem in understanding, assessment and valuation. Such things happen usually, as a lot of political forces make mistakes sometimes, but what matters is that we understand this mistake and fix it. I think that the SDC’s visit to Moscow is an implicit undeclared assessment of every previous political path that they have gone through, because they practically reached a turning point. Nobody had known of the Memorandum, neither the Russians nor the Americans. We had worked on it secretly for 3 months, and no one should think that the Russians told us to sign with the SDC or that the Americans told the SDC to sign with us. That is just “crazy talk” and frivolous.
We are responsible for our words. It is true that we took a long time, and we tortured each other in discussion, but it is a very noble thing that through discussion and not through arms we reached understandings. This is a unique experience in the Syrian Political life, because no consensus has occurred in Syria before under the one-party system. Even the word consensus is not known in Syria, so how would people practice it in reality?
I wrote in the title of the episode: “Is the Memorandum of Understanding a step or a turning point?” and you answered that this is a complete turn in the SDC’s path.
Is it possible to clarify more? And why was it called “Memorandum of Understanding” and not “Agreement”?
Memorandum of Understanding is a declaration of intentions, whereas Agreement is something of a higher level. We are still in the first step. This memorandum, this declaration of intentions, is not something easy, as we agreed on five important and focal points, which, if taken as a model, will affect the future of development in Syria, and the future of the entire dialogue. However, is it a step or a turning point? There are big steps and there is a step to the right and another to the left. Where is the turning point in all of that? There might be a small step, but it actually heads to the left and leads to a turning point. What happened is an important step that carries the characteristic features of a turning point, which means preparing the conditions for political dialogue and political transition in Syria, and in this sense, it is a qualitative leap.
You said in one of the interviews that signing in Moscow was no mere coincidence, and that you wanted to send a message to everyone. What was that message? And who are everyone?
Everyone means each person who will listen to this message and read it. We wanted to say: Moscow is a comfortable place for dialogue, and that Moscow is invited to play a role in the political process and in providing a comfortable atmosphere for it and for all Syrians. It proved to us during the events that it is the closest to us both, the two parties, from any other international power, because the words of this international power did not change, they have never lied to us. They might say what we may not like, but their words are honest and express their convictions. It is possible to make understandings with them by time and that is what happened.
There are factors that overlapped, as it was difficult to arrange the meeting somewhere else as I cannot get out of here to any other country in the world, because I am sanctioned by Europe and the US. That is why the SDC generously came to Moscow, where I am. Nevertheless, Moscow has its moral and political value, and they know that.
We wanted all those who have to do with the Syrian crisis to know that our understandings with Moscow are developed and could further develop. Take that into consideration, we are not playing games.
At the time the Russian Foreign Ministry received you, we heard that a Turkish delegation was also in Moscow, was that only a coincidence?
We got informed that the Turks were there on the next day after the meeting, but they asked to cancel the meeting before it was held. Turkish officials accused the Russians that they arranged the visit of the Turkish delegation intentionally after meeting the two Syrian delegations, so the Russians responded to them: you were supposed to come before them, but you were the ones who delayed the visit, so do not accuse us of what we did not intentionally do.
Why does Moscow not play a role in mediating between the Kurds and the Turks, as it played a role in so many other disputes and conflicts?
This issue was monopolized by the Americans, and the concerned parties had to accept the judge, so if the mediator was not accepted it will not be able to play the required role. I guess a circumstance has emerged today that can allow for the Russians to play the role of the mediator, because the Russians have good relations with the Kurds in Syria and they do not want to ruin the relationship with Turkey. Hence, through negotiations of political nature, one can accomplish what is possible and reach a compromise. They will seek to find the points that reduce the tension.
In addition to that, and for the record, the SDC and its constituent forces have visited Turkey several times, and a lot of meetings were held with the Turkish officials. Did they now become terrorists? The US also made a lot of meetings with the SDC and the SDF, the Turks did not say anything about the Americans back then. Now they want to say that the Russians support terrorists? This talk is unsteady, illogical, and unfair, and I think the Turks are likely to alter their stance. There is no other solution.
Let’s get to the core of the agreement… you did not mention federalism, you said centralization, decentralization, you left it loose in expression, are you the creator of this formulation?
We have strict stances in our party: we are against federalism, and against the “autonomy” expression in the Syrian circumstance. This is a strict stance. We are against using decentralization in an absolute way without accompanying it with centralization. We want a (centralized – decentralized) system in Syria. So, if those stances were strict, how can we make an understanding with their presence? We need to compromise a bit on our stances.
Why are we against federalism? Because Syria has 40 religions, nationalities, sects and clans. If this door was to be opened in this small geographic area, federalism in this circumstance will mean breaking Syria into pieces as a country resulting from Sykes-Picot, and as an independent country which its national sovereignty and borders were formed a hundred years ago. Federalism means abolishing this country on the one hand. On the other hand, autonomy needs any intended autonomous region to be nationalistically pure. However, such a purity does not exist in the Syrian reality. There is a huge geographic overlap that makes autonomy dangerous because it led to ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia. We should stay away from that.
Absolute decentralization in the Syrian circumstances means a people without a state. We need a state for reconstruction, a state for defining foreign, defense and economic policy, which means a Central Bank, a Ministry of Finance and etc. Decentralization only comes in the course of development, because it is an expression of civilization and progress, like Switzerland for example, from which Lenin took the idea of the Soviets. In Syria and our countries, there is an awful lack of political freedom and political experience, that is why we reached the ultimate equation of balance between centralization and decentralization. A center that has defense powers, as we still have lands that are occupied till now, and powers to manage foreign policies and economy, because reconstruction needs major central efforts. As for the rest, it will be agreed upon through democratic discussion and mindful dialogue between Syrians themselves to reach the Syrian version of decentralization. No idea in the world succeeded by copying an idea before it. The idea that succeeds is a new and unique idea that is derived from reality. We study all the previous experiences but we do not copy them, because copying is the shortest way to failure. New ideas should be constituted by Syrians themselves and by all the various component groups they are made up of. Americans, Russians, Iranians, Turks or any others have nothing to do with that, as they do not live in the Syrian circumstances.
What do you exactly mean by centralizing the economy?
We mean the Syrian comprehensive budget, (and that does not mean the absence of a local budget), the ways of distributing resources to each region, the Central Bank and the Ministry of Finance. Concerning the issue of central investments, even with the existence of broad decentralization, the state apparatus is responsible for the state as a whole, hence, it can make central projects in decentralized regions, and those regions can make their own local projects with their own local resources. How are we going to distribute resources and wealth? We have a problem here that nobody yet has talked about. For example, more than 50% of strategic crops and a high proportion of oil come from northeastern Syria, which contains 15% of the population, and the investment budget gives them 2-3%. The country of wheat only had one mill, and did not have flour! and this situation applies to all regions. The center devoured everything so it can loot from decentralized regions, as those regions were being marginalized, which led to social then political discontent, that we later saw its results. The problem of corruption can only be solved by giving broad democratic powers to decentralized regions. How would the center in Damascus fight corruption in Amuda, al-Darbasiyah, as-Sanamayn or others? the people must intervene in that.
And how would the center know the people’s current and future needs on economic development?
With democratic tools. Within our project, we say that the People’s Council should be on a comprehensive proportional basis in Syria. A Senate should be established that takes into consideration the sensitivities of regional representation. In addition, the Senate should be elected directly and individually in each region, and each region should have its own small people’s council which wields power over every executive authority in that region. The people now fear any executive authority (like the director of Power and Water Corporation and the Police Station). The power of the people through the People’s Council should be the supreme authority. Power and confidence should be given back to the people. Public servants who have always inclined to corruption should be afraid of people watching them, not the other way around. This is the only solution.
You say that the self-government experience should be benefited from, with its advantages and disadvantages, and one of the positive points that you mentioned is the legislations concerning women. Do you believe in the possibility of applying these legislations in all Syrian regions? Like for example in the regions controlled by Al-Nusra? And are you trying through your presence in the Constitutional Committee to consolidate those right?
First, the Constitutional Committee has not started its actual work until now, it is still talking about principles and basics. If it continues at this pace, it will need 10 years to finish, and we do not approve of that, of course. We, in the People’s Will Party strongly support this issue of civil laws that concern the family and women in self-government regions, because they are progressive. Regarding al-Nusra, who said it will stay forever? And who said that people in Idlib are happy with it? The existence of al-Nusra in Idlib led to a reaction that will make people convinced of the necessity of formulating civil laws that attain equality in rights between women and men in deeds not just in words.
Do you think that the Russian delegation’s visit to Damascus has to do with the memorandum between you and the SDC?
No, it has nothing to do with it.
Lavrov said: “We came to discuss the relations under the new developments in Syria and the world”, what are these developments?
I can only estimate that. I do not have exclusive information from Lavrov. Lavrov visited Damascus in 2012 when the rising pole was at the beginning of its rise, and the declining pole (the West) was at the beginning of its decline. Today, after 8 years, the international balance has changed for the benefit of the rising pole, economically and militarily. As for the political level, the power of the US and the European Union is still there by inertial force, which does not rely on any equivalent economic or military power, i.e. there is potential difference between their political power on one hand and their economic and military power on the other. However, this will not last for long, because we are heading towards another world, and that was what Lavrov meant. Life will go on and it will not stop for anyone, and will not stop for the interests and rigidity of some political powers in the region that do not understand anything except their own narrow interests, and the rulers of the region have no other choice but either to submit to change with the new political realities or to submit to change!