On a recent morning Sheikh Humaydi Daham al-Hadi reclined on a velvet floor sofa, puffing on a cigarette with a roguish glint in his eye as he held court in his outdoor diwan, or reception chamber, in the town of Tell Alo in northern Syria.
The veteran leader of the nomadic Arab Shammar tribe, which spans several countries, is among the most vocal advocates of Syria’s long-repressed Kurdish minority. His Forces of the Brave or al-Sanadid forces have, like thousands of fellow Arab tribals, been fighting alongside the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) as part of the US-led coalition against the Islamic State.
On March 23 the YPG-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) declared victory after the fall of the jihadis’ last sliver of territory in Baghouz. But even before the Islamic State was vanquished in battle, Hadi had embarked on another mission — to probe the contours of a possible settlement between the SDF, its allies and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. “Yes, I am ready to shake Assad’s hand,” Hadi told Al-Monitor in an exclusive interview at his marble palace, where he breeds his prized horses and camels. The sheikh had recently returned from a diplomatic tour that took him to Baghdad, Damascus and an overnight encounter with Russian officials at the Hmeimim airbase in western Syria. “The aim is to stop the war and sit around the table,” Hadi said.
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