The spiralling violence in Gaza will have devastating consequences, Syrian Democratic Forces commander Mazloum Abdi told Al-Monitor’s Amberin Zaman in an exclusive interview on Wednesday, noting that the region is already seeing the spillover effects.
Abdi revealed a marked escalation in attacks by Iranian-backed militias in the Deir ez-Zor region of eastern Syria, targeting not only United States bases but also SDF forces. The attacks included an Iranian kamikaze drone strike on an SDF ammunition depot, causing injuries and significant damage. The commander stressed the need to reduce tensions to prevent the region from becoming a battleground between the US and Iranian-backed militias.
Beyond the immediate impact, Abdi stressed the enduring nature of the Palestinian and Kurdish struggles for justice and advocated for a resolution of these issues through dialogue.
Condemning aggression from all sides, the commander addressed the potential consequences of Israel’s disproportionate use of force in Gaza and warned of an increased risk of extremism, including the emergence and rebranding of Islamist armed groups. He advocated resolving these issues through dialogue.
“Neither the Palestinians nor the Kurds are going to disappear or give up their struggle for justice no matter what. The Palestinian and Kurdish issues need to be resolved through dialogue, not aggression, and that obviously applies to all sides,” Abdi said.
According to Abdi, the enduring instability in the Middle East related to the Palestinian and Kurdish issues. He conveyed a message of solidarity with the Palestinian people and advocated for a two-state solution.
“The tragedy unfolding in Gaza contains several key lessons. The first is that the Palestinian and Kurdish issues remain the biggest sources of instability and conflict in the Middle East,” the SDF commander stressed.
Turkey’s potential exploitation of Middle East instability
Abdi further expressed concern that Turkey could exploit the situation to launch further assaults into Kurdish areas. The population of northern Syria has already suffered numerous attacks, with Turkey’s military campaign in October resulting in civilian casualties and damage to infrastructure.
Addressing US responses in the face of Turkish attacks, Abdi expressed disappointment and criticised what he perceived as a weak stance, causing the Kurdish people to question their partnership with the US.
Abdi concluded with reiterating the SDF’s commitment to peaceful relations but emphasising a determination to defend the Kurdish-led regions in Syria against unprovoked attacks. He conveyed a message to neighbours and regional actors, emphasising the SDF’s role in countering violent extremism, and seeking support for a peaceful resolution rather than aggression.