By Prof. Anders Romelsjö.
Member of SWEDHR’s Board of Directors, and The Indicter Editorial Board.
The public Swedish Radio reported on January 22, 2016, under the headline “Amnesty: Kurdish forces violate international law. It could be a war crime” that Amnesty International visited a number of villages in northern Iraq and interviewed more than 100 people. And a pattern was revealed: the Kurdish Peshmerga forces would have destroyed homes and villages that prior to IS rampage were inhabited by Arabs. In some of the villages where both Kurds and Arabs living for many years; only Kurds have been allowed to return to their homes. This is according to Donatella Rovera of Amnesty International, who has been in the area, in Iraq. The criticism is not new. Reports from e.g. Human Rights Watch have previously raised the issue that Arab Sunnis are not allowed to return to their homes after IS were driven away by the Kurdish forces. According to Kurdish quarters this is because the area was not safe enough to stay in, or to a too great devastation.
Picture at left, house destroyed in Irak by the YPG
The Kurdish Peshmerga forces are fighting the ISIS in a long time disputed territory. Amnesty International is sharply critical in its report that the Kurdish forces are using the conflict in Iraq to take control of more land. Dindar Zebari, the Kurdistan Regional Government, says “The only areas we have control over which we not already ruled, were taken because the IS was there – nothing else.” But according to Amnesty International, testimony and satellite images do show that the Peshmerga forces have violated international law and discriminated Arabs. It could be war crimes according to Amnesty International. The Swedish radio’s news program interviewed representatives of the Swedish government. Sweden supports the Peshmerga forces, including training. The government representatives were obviously troubled by the information in the Amnesty report.
Note: I have previously criticized Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, and, indirectly the public Swedish Radio for their reporting on Syria because that the information and that the sources were of very questionable reliability. There are several examples where their reporting seems to suit US interests, as well as the neglect of other information in their reporting. This obviously does not mean that other reports can be reliable. Especially as it does not suit US interests directly, as in this case.
Al-Jazeera recently reported that troops from the US has taken control of Rmeilan airfields in northern Syria in the al-Hasakah province to support the Kurds against the ISIS a spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) says. In this province Arabs, Kurds, Syrians and Turkmens live alongside kurds. The airfield will be the first US-controlled air base in Syria, and was previously controlled by the US and Sweden-backed Kurdish YPG. The airfield is near Syria’s border to Iraq and Turkey. “According to an agreement with YPG USA has gained control of the airport. The purpose of the deal is to support the SDF by providing weapons and an air base for US warplanes” media activist Taj Kordsh from the SDF told for Al Jazeera on Tuesday 19/1. This airport has previously been controlled by YPG in over two years. It is a strategic airport near several oil bases – one of the largest in this area. “Rmeilan airport was earlier used for agricultural purposes by the Syrian government,” he said. According to previous reports of the Syrian Local Coordination Committees (one of the rebel organizations), the US has built up the airport Rmeilan since some time.
The information could neither be confirmed nor denied by a spokesman for the US CENTCOM. CENTCOM, United States Central Command United States Central Command, is the military command in charge of defending and maintaining US security interests in 20 countries in the Middle East and Central Asia according to Wikipedia. The US has already supplied weapons to the SDF and also supports the group with airstrikes in their fight against (ISIS) in northern Syria. SDF was founded in Syria’s northeastern region in October 2015 and consists of at least 15 armed factions – mostly soldiers from the YPG and the Free Syrian Army. The combatants include Christians, Arabs and about 500 foreign soldiers, according to Kordsh adding that some groups in Aleppo and Idlib recently joined the SDF. The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), (AR: a non-neutral organization) also reported 19/1 that the United States had taken control of the air base.
An anti-war organization in the US provides about the same information, and also writes that the attack helicopters have flown to and from the airport since long. The Pentagon spokesman colonel Steve Warren confirmed that an intervention was going on in the area, but did not provide more details.
Recently, however, Sputnik published the article “Rmeilan Airfield: Is Pentagon Preparing for All-Out Offensive in Syria?” In the subheading:
Controversy is still simmering over the US taking control of the Syrian Rmeilan airfield in the northeastern Syrian province of al-Hasakah, near the Turkish and Iraqi borders; although CENTCOM says the US is not controlling ‘any airfield in Syria,’ satellite images and reports from the ground suggest the opposite.”
Citing the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), Dave Majumdar, the Defense Editor of The National Interest, reports that American special operation forces have taken the Rmeilan airbase in northeastern Syria several weeks ago. According to SOHR, the base’s infrastructure is being expanded; US helicopters have been spotted using the base. ”The US forces currently operating at Rmeilan might include US Air Force Special Tactics Squadron operators, such as combat controllers, pararescue jumpers and special operations weathermen,” Majumdar suggests in his article.
”Special tactics squadron airmen — particularly combat controllers — are often embedded with US Army Special Forces and US Navy SEAL units. The aforementioned helicopters could be from the US Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment — which is an elite unit tasked specifically to support top tier special operations units,” the article underscores.
Final Note: To fight ISIS is fine, but to occupy a piece of one country (Syria) is an act of war, a crime against international law, which the United States is a master at. We have previously reported that the US also have their own troops in Syria, they have “boots on the ground”. Stream media remain essentially silent regarding this new act of war against Syria.
The issue of an independent Kurdistan has been analyzed by Ulf Karlström in the article [Swedish] “Should we recognize Kurdistan as a future state?“