Tag Archives: Hafez al-Assad

Is Britain Cracking Down on PKK Terrorist Activity?

Originally published at The Henry Jackson Society

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 16 December 2017

Pro-PKK demonstrators in Frankfurt, Germany, 18 March 2017, REUTERS / Ralph Orlowski

The BBC reported yesterday that on 7 December the Metropolitan Police Service arrested four people—two 17-year-old boys, a 38-year-old woman, and a 50-year-old woman—were arrested in the Haringey area of north London as part of a probe into terrorist fundraising, through money laundering and fraud. The terrorist group at issue is the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and those arrested are believed to have contributed to the PKK’s finances through sale and distribution of one of the PKK’s most important propaganda instruments, the Yeni Ozgur Politika (New Free Politics) newspaper. Time will tell if this is a one-off or the beginning of a serious and long-overdue attempt to curtail the PKK’s propaganda-recruitment activity and fundraising in the West. Continue reading

America’s Kurdish Allies in Syria Drift Toward the Regime, Russia, and Iran

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 10 December 2017

Russian soldiers in Efrin, Syria, 1 May 2017 (source)

Cross-posted from The Henry Jackson Society

The American-led Coalition against the Islamic State (IS) partnered with the “Syrian Democratic Forces” (SDF), a political façade for the proscribed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), as the ground force in Syria. The most ventilated problems with this partnership so far have been the strain it has put on relations with NATO ally Turkey, against which the PKK has run a terrorist-insurgency for more than thirty years, and the deep local suspicion of the PKK’s governing program that might yet reverse the gains against IS and open political space for other jihadists like al-Qaeda. Another of the problems is now gaining salience: the PKK’s long-term alliance with Bashar al-Asad’s regime and the states—Russia and Iran—that keep it alive. Continue reading

The West’s Plan for Defeating the Islamic State in Syria is Fatally Flawed

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 6 June 2017

A member of the YPG/PKK militia, Delil Souleiman/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The United States recently committed itself to arming the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, known as the Y.P.G., to help evict the Islamic State from its Syrian stronghold, Raqqa. This decision is likely to prove deeply troublesome, risking the regional stability necessary for the lasting defeat of the Islamic State.

The Y.P.G. denies that it is, in effect, a wing of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or P.K.K., but the evidence is clear. The P.K.K., a Marxist-leaning Kurdish nationalist organization, was founded in Turkey in 1978, and took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984. The group’s leader, Abdullah Ocalan, was expelled from Syria in 1998, when his old patron, the regime of Hafez al-Assad (Bashar’s father), came under military threat from Turkey. Mr. Ocalan was soon arrested by the Turks, and the tide of war turned against the P.K.K. Continue reading

The Assad Regime Admits to Manipulating the Islamic State

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on January 6, 2017

Khaled Abboud

From the beginning of the uprising in Syria in 2011, there have been accusations that Bashar al-Assad’s regime was in a de facto partnership with the Islamic State (IS) against the mainstream opposition. These accusations have a considerable basis in fact: during the entirety of the Anglo-American occupation of Iraq, Assad collaborated with IS jihadists in the destabilization of Iraq, killing thousands of Iraqi civilians and hundreds of American and British troops. Once the Syrian uprising was underway, the regime undertook various measures to bolster extremists in the insurgency. Assad and IS worked in tandem to leave Syria as a binary choice between themselves: Assad was sure this would rehabilitate him in the eyes of the world and transform his criminal regime into a partner of the international community in suppressing a terrorist insurgency, and IS wanted to rally Sunnis to its banner. The Secretary of the Syrian Parliament has now come forward to underline this. Continue reading

Book Review: The Consequences of Syria (2014) by Lee Smith

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on May 9, 2015

1

Lee Smith’s The Consequences of Syria is part of the Hoover Institution’s “The Great Unravelling” series, which also included The Struggle for Mastery in the Fertile Crescent by the late Fouad Ajami (which I reviewed here.)

Published in June 2014, Smith narrates Syria’s terrible war to the opening months of 2014, the innumerable excuses made by the Obama administration for letting it run, and the theoretical framework behind the administration’s decision. The book is relatively short and the prose is direct; it takes very complex discussions of ideas and puts them in easily-digestible terms—all while keeping the reader’s eye on the practical implications.

Smith starts with the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the central event in President Obama’s thinking about the Middle East. Continue reading

Who Killed The Anti-Assad Imam In London?

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on April 9, 2015

Abdul Hadi Arwani

Abdul Hadi Arwani

Abdul Hadi Arwani, a Syrian-born imam, was found shot dead in his car on Tuesday in Wembley, northwest London. The British police are still refusing to officially name Arwani, but his friends and supporters have done so. Arwani leaves behind six children.

There are many possibilities for who killed Arwani. As the manager of a construction firm, it could be a deal gone wrong. The involvement of anti-terrorism police in the investigation into Arwani’s murder could indicate a far-Right anti-Muslim assailant. However, a source close to the investigation said that Arwani was struck down in an operation that had all the hallmarks of a “State-sponsored assassination“. To find that the long arm of Bashar al-Assad’s mukhabarat had caught up with Arwani would hardly be a surprise. Continue reading

The Long History of Middle Eastern State-Terrorism In Paris

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on January 19, 2015

Said Kouachi and Cherif Kouachi

Last week, Lee Smith wrote of the reasons that it was likely that there was a foreign hand, quite probably that of a State, in the attack on Charlie Hebdo and the Jewish deli in Paris. Smith noted that the French believe that the funding and weapons for the attacks came from abroad. Smith pointed to the historical record, in which terrorism in Paris is typically not carried out because of religion—or not directly: it might come from States that see themselves as god’s representatives on earth—or community grievances, but “because you’re getting paid to stage an operation on behalf of a particular cause or regime.” Smith gave three cases, and they seemed worth expanding on. Continue reading