Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Liberation of Manbij Revives “Syrian Federalism” | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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One happy evacuee could be seen having his beard cut off/ Reuters

Beirut: Celebrations filled the city of Manjib in the province of Aleppo, north Syria, shortly after Kurdish militias fighting in the region have announced yesterday they had completely controlled the city, which has been under the rule of ISIS since 2014.

The announcement had again opened the wide door in front of requests previously suggested by Syria’s Kurds to establish a federal region. Local, regional and international powers had already expressed their wide reservations on the project.

However, the liberation of Manjib opens a political dilemma related to whether Manjib would be included in the Kurdish Federal region in Syria.

Kurdish sources told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that following the liberation of Manjib by Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which mainly includes members from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units,” the city would be annexed to the federal state previously announced by separatist Kurds in north Syria. “Following the liberation of Manjib, there are no reasons left for preventing the official announcement of this federal region,” the sources said.

Nawaf Khalil, head of the Germany-based Kurdish Center for Studies told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper: “Currently, there is a political need to clear Manjib from ISIS remains and work on securing the return of more than 170,000 civilians who had lately fled the city.”

He said that the issue of annexing Manjib to the self-governed administration is currently out of discussion.

Khalil said residents of Manjib or other cities that later SDF forces liberate cannot be forced to join the federal region.

He said: “Manjib residents are aware which party can protect them, and therefore will decide based on that.”

Meanwhile, forces from the Manjib Military Council continued yesterday clearing the city from mines set by ISIS fighters.

A leading Kurdish member told Asharq Al-Awsat that some “civilians have already returned to the neighborhoods which are now cleaned, and therefore, there will be no problem if all civilians decide to return to their homes at the end of the sweeping operation.” He said that a specialized team of engineers was working on clearing the mines planted in the city.

More than 400,000 people lived in Manjib before the assault started. However, the majority of them have been displaced since then.

Meanwhile, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said ISIS freed hundreds of hostages who were used as “human shields” when ISIS fighters were fleeing the city last Friday.

Separately, Secretary General of the so-called Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, called on ISIS and the al-Qaeda organization to stop fighting in Syria and warned that the U.S. was planning to destroy them.

During the rally marking the tenth anniversary of so-called “July victory” in the southern town of Bint Jbeil, Nasrallah completely overlooked the latest developments in the city of Aleppo.

And despite the display of joy and celebration that party leaders tried to show during Nasrallah’s speech, the so-called Hezbollah supporters attended with a feeling of resentment and sadness as thousands of their sons were currently fighting in Syria under very difficult conditions and with no news on their return.

Nasrallah said: “After the new Middle East scheme failed and after the U.S. could not change the equation in Afghanistan and Iraq, Washington relied on its plan of proxy war.”

He said the U.S. has created and financed the Takfiri groups using Arab capitals in an attempt to destroy the axis of resistance in the region.

Nasrallah appealed to ISIS and other extremist groups to lay down their arms, pleading for them to realize that they are serving U.S. and Israeli interests by fighting in the region.

Nasrallah said in case the fighting does not stop in Aleppo, the party would remain in the city. “We have no other choice,” he said.