The German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Auswärtige Politik), a semi-official think tank on the model of Chatham House, to which it is affiliated, was subjected to an arson attack on 22 August. The claimants to the attack, the “Autonome Gruppen” (Autonomous Groups), framed it as in part a response to Turkey driving the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) out of the Efrin province of north-western Syria. Their message was amplified by PKK propaganda channels. A summary of the message and the original are below. Continue reading →
Turkey killed a senior operative of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the internationally-recognised terrorist organisation and narcoticstraffickingentity that has been at war with the Turkish state since 1984, in Iraq last week. Turkey launched a wave of airstrikes against PKK targets in Syria and Iraq in April 2017 and for the last several months Ankara has been widening its campaign against the PKK outside Turkey’s borders, particularly in Iraq, where the PKK is not protected by the United States, as it is in eastern Syria. Having feinted in June toward an attack on the historic PKK headquarters in the Qandil Mountains—a somewhat symbolic target at this stage, with the bulk of the PKK’s leadership and resources in Syria—it appears the Turks have opted for a more targeted approach.
This operation underscores the continuance of U.S.-Turkey relations, and the mutual benefits of the relationship, even in its current damaged state, where both sides have a laundry list of legitimate grievances with the other. If a formula for normalisation can be found, the potential to contain and weaken some of the worst, most destabilising elements in the region, saliently the PKK and the Iranian regime, is within reach. Continue reading →
Funeral for the victims of the TAK/PKK terrorist attack on the Besiktas football stadium in Istanbul, December 2016. Photograph: Sedat Suna/EPA
The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the separatist group in Turkey that is a designated terrorist organisation across much of the West, has always used a vast array of front-groups in the West to raise funds and recruit. After 9/11, with the advent of the War on Terror, the PKK switched tactics in the region to try to conceal its operations and avoid the “terrorism” label. This involved rebranding its operations in Iraq, Syria, and Iran, and setting up a special forces-style urban terrorism wing, the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK), to deniably carry out its most atrocious activities. The PKK’s rebranding has not been without success. In Australia, however, the government has refused to accept the PKK’s propaganda about TAK and lists it, quite correctly, as simply an alias for the PKK. Continue reading →
Foreign fighters with the YPG/PKK on the outskirts of Tal Tamr in northwestern Syria, 16 April 2015. UYGAR ÖNDER ŞİMŞEK / AFP / Getty Images
ABSTRACT: The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) operates under the names of the Democratic Union Party and the People’s Protection Units in Syria. The PKK is registered as a terrorist group by most Western governments, the European Union and Turkey, where it originated as a separatist organization. Nonetheless, the YPG has been the partner of the United States-led coalition in Syria against the ISIS. The strengthening of the YPG/PKK and its political messaging has brought in a flow of western foreign fighters. Some of these fighters are now returning to their homelands with indications that they are bringing security problems with them.
Logo of Harakat al-Qiyam from its first video, 15 October 2017
A campaign is underway to destabilise the “Rojava” area of north-eastern Syria, ruled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a composite force wholly dominated by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an internally-designated terrorist organisation whose operatives use the banner of the People’s Protection Forces (YPG) in Syria. The SDF/PKK captured a lot of Arab-majority areas as a side-effect of the American-led war against the Islamic State (IS), which deputised the SDF as its ground force in Syria. It was always clear that these inhabitants did not wish to be ruled by an authoritarian Kurdish nationalist party with Marxist inflections and a cult around its leader, Abdullah Ocalan. There was, however, a chance that the goodwill of that comes with liberation could be converted, with the right adjustments, the SDF model could become a durable settlement. It appears the trendline is now running the other way, toward a disintegration of this structure. Continue reading →
Egyptian ruler Abdelfattah al-Sisi, Saudi King Salman, and President Donald Trump in Riyadh on 22 May 2017 (image source)
Two days ago, The Wall Street Journalreported that President Donald Trump has been exploring plans to replace American troops in the areas of Syria held by the Coalition partner force, the “Syrian Democratic Forces” (SDF), with troops from the Arab states. The problems with this proposal, even in the rudimentary form it is presented, are manifold. It also feeds into the broader problem of Trump’s inconsistent messaging about Syria—or, more precisely, his failed efforts to balance domestic messaging, which calls for what was once referred to as “nation building … at home”, and his foreign messaging that needs to emphasise U.S. constancy to see through the mission to defeat the Islamic State (IS) by, among other things, stabilising and reconstructing Syria. Continue reading →