PKK Kurdish deal with Turkey may worry
Iran and Syria
By Guney Yildiz - BBC Turkish
Iran may be the only
country left with a Kurdish problem” Mehdi Talati,
Iranian security analyst
The PKK's Murat Karayilan (L) says he would like to
see the truce between PJAK and Iran continue.
The PKK demanded Turkey's recognition of the Kurds'
identity in its constitution and of their language
as a native language along with Turkish in the
country's Kurdish region [Northern Kurdistan], the
party also demanded an end to ethnic discrimination
in Turkish laws and constitution against Kurds,
ranting them full political freedoms. Turkey refuses
to recognize its Kurdish population as a distinct
minority and still denies the constitutional
existence of Kurds. A large Turkey's Kurdish
community, numbering to 23 million, openly
sympathise with PKK rebels. Photo: AFP
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May 10, 2013
ANKARA,— Rebels of the Kurdistan Workers
Party (PKK) have begun leaving south-eastern Turkey
for their main bases in Kurdistan region [Southern
Kurdistan] in Iraq's north, but there is no talk of
Instead, several top commanders of the PKK have said
they will keep and even consolidate their forces.
So what will the thousands of well-trained militants
in Qandil, Zap and other PKK-controlled areas of
Iraqi Kurdistan do, as the truce with Turkey holds?
This is probably the question the Iranian and Syrian
governments have been asking since the imprisoned
leader of the PKK, Abdullah Ocalan, who is
negotiating a peace deal with Turkey, urged
militants to withdraw from inside Turkey.
The group has two sister parties in Iran and Syria
with their own armed wings: the Party of Free Life
of Kurdistan (PJAK), which is fighting against Iran,
and the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which holds
the reins of power in Kurdish areas of Syria. Both
have many fighters from Turkey's Kurdish areas.
"Iran's main concern is whether the PKK fighters
will be joining forces with PJAK or not," says Mehdi
Talati, a Swiss-based Iranian security analyst.
"PJAK, with its current strength, does not
represent a strong challenge to the Iranian
army, but it could pose a significant threat
with reinforcements from the PKK."
Only two years ago, Iran and Turkey were
conducting joint military operations against the
PKK's main bases in the Qandil Mountains.
Prof Nader Entessar of the University of South
Alabama in the US argues Iran was taken by
surprise by the peace process in Turkey: "The
Iranian government doesn't appear to have
foreseen this and developed a plan B for this
situation yet; we may say that they were caught
A ceasefire has been in place between the PKK's
Iranian offshoot and Tehran since the autumn of
Although the PKK has shown its resilience in the
face of joint military operations from Turkey
and Iran, the group has sought to avoid fighting
on two fronts whenever it can.
PKK executive leader Murat Karayilan has tried
hard to establish a ceasefire between PJAK and
Iran in order to focus on the fight against
He recently reiterated that he would like to see
the truce between PJAK and Iran continue.
However, Abdullah Ocalan has talked about the
possibility of PKK militants joining forces with
the PYD and PJAK.
"I don't believe that our guerrilla force will
[cease being active] when we withdraw - there
are Syria and Iran," he was quoted as saying in
leaked meeting notes with three MPs of the
pro-Kurdish BDP, who went to meet him at Imrali
Prison where he is being held.
Another potential loser in a peace deal between
the PKK and Turkey could be Syria.
Syria's policy towards the PKK has fluctuated
over the last decades.
Seeing the PKK as a counterbalance against
Turkey, the late President Hafez al-Assad
harboured the group up until 1998,www.ekurd.net
when his government forced the PKK leader out of
the country under pressure from Turkey and the
Relations between Turkey and Syria became
friendlier in the following years, and Assad's
son and incumbent president, Bashar, reiterated
Syria's full support for Turkey's war with the
In a bid to retaliate against the shifting
position of the Syrian government, Abdullah
Ocalan decided, in the last few days of his stay
in Syria, to establish a separate Kurdish group
to fight against the Syrian government.
This move now gives Mr Ocalan one of his
strongest cards in Imrali prison as he
negotiates a peace deal with Turkey.
The PYD, re-established in 2003 after the
failure of the first attempt, now holds the
reins of power in most of the Kurdish areas of
Turkey is keen to see the PYD step up the fight
against Syria, and some think they can count on
Mr Ocalan to influence the Syrian Kurd position
towards Turkey and the Syrian government.
The co-chair of the PYD, Saleh Muslim Muhammed,
told BBC Turkish in London: "Ocalan is not only
the leader of the PKK. He is a leader of the
Kurdish people as well. We cannot overlook his
The Syrian government's hitherto friendly relations
with Turkey came to an end in 2011, when the Turkish
government declared its open support for the Syrian
In the face of the rebel uprising, Syrian government
forces pulled out of Syrian Kurdistan [Western
Kurdistan] in the north to concentrate on the
This move was based on the premise that de facto
Kurdish autonomy on the Turkish border would pose a
challenge to the Turkish government.
But that premise could turn out to be false if a
Turkish peace deal with the PKK holds.
Boost for Turkey
Saleh Muslim Muhammed confirms that the Kurds in
Syria have been watching the peace negotiations
between the PKK and Turkey with high hopes.
"We are ready to talk to Turkey without any
conditions and we begin to see indications of a
change in the Turkish policy towards us," he said.
The conflict with the PKK has effectively challenged
Turkey's regional ambitions, especially last year
when the militants held ground in Turkey's
south-eastern corner for a couple of weeks.
Now a halt in the conflict could mean Turkey would
be able to free up its military and economic
resources and this would result in an increase in
Turkey's regional profile, says Mr Talati.
On the economic front, the conflict has cost Turkey
more than $300bn (£194bn), according to official
Mr Talati adds: "It is too early to decide whether
the Turkish government is honest about a political
solution to the Kurdish question. But if it reaches
its intended conclusion, then Iran may be the only
country left with a Kurdish problem."
Region names have been changed or added to
the article by Ekurd.net
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