Tag Archives: KCK

Iraqi Kurdistan’s Independence Referendum and the West’s Middle East Strategy

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 27 September 2017

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) held a referendum on 25 September, and voted overwhelmingly—with nearly 93% in favour—for independence. The comparison with Brexit might have been overworked by all sides, but there was a familiarity: while the result itself was not a shock, the fact of the referendum itself came as a surprise to many in what one might call the global elite, which lectured in that endearing way that had such success in deterring Brits a year ago. Then as now, the effect was, if anything, to stoke the bloody-mindedness of a population that had considerable qualms but had enough pride to repudiate being harangued in those accents. Still, as with Brexit, it wasn’t as if the naysayers didn’t have a case, and now comes the really difficult work. Continue reading

The Forgotten Foreign Fighters: The PKK in Syria

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 17 August 2017

I released a report today, published by the Henry Jackson Society, The Forgotten Foreign Fighters: The PKK in Syria. Continue reading

The West’s Partners in Syria and the Risks to Turkey

Originally published at The Henry Jackson Society

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 8 June 2017

Aftermath of a TAK bombing in central Istanbul, Turkey, 7 June 2016

The Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK) issued a threat against Turkey on Tuesday, at the very moment the U.S.-led Coalition was announcing the commencement of the operation to evict the Islamic State (IS) from its Syrian capital, Raqqa, in alliance with the TAK’s mother organization, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). This underlines some of the challenges confronting the Coalition as a result of a half-decade of short-sighted counter-terrorism policy in Syria and a regional posture that tilted away from traditional allies. Continue reading

The Problems With the West’s Partners Against the Islamic State

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 10 May 2017

U.S. troops patrolling with the YPG/PKK in the village of Darbasiyah, northern Syria, on the border with Turkey, 28 April 2017

The United States has tried to engage in Syria almost solely in a counter-terrorism capacity, against Daesh (IS) and—in a recently-escalating campaign—against al Qaeda. The narrowness of the focus on jihadist terrorists led to the US disregarding wider political dynamics in the war in Syria—and to a degree in Iraq, too—and partnering with forces that over the long term will undo even this narrow mission.

The announcement yesterday that President Donald Trump will now arm the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) to expel Daesh from its Syrian capital, Raqqa, is the end-point of this policy, setting up a very dangerous medium- and long-term situation that will redound to the benefit of terrorists. Continue reading

PKK and Propaganda

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 29 April 2017

Ilham Ahmed

The West’s Syria policy is beginning to unravel of its own contradictions.

The Turkish government launched airstrikes against the positions of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in north-eastern Syria and the Sinjar area of north-western Iraq in the early hours of 25 April. There were international ramifications to this because the PKK in Syria, which operates politically under the name of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and militarily as the People’s Defence Units (YPG), is the main partner of the U.S.-led Coalition against the Islamic State (IS). Turkey has protested the U.S. engaging the YPG/PKK so deeply and exclusively as its anti-IS partner, being displeased at the U.S.’s uncritical (public) stance toward the YPG, even after the YPG violated U.S.-brokered agreements on its operational theatres and used Russian airstrikes to attack Turkey- and CIA-backed rebels.

In response to Turkey’s anti-PKK operations this week, The Washington Post has hosted an op-ed by Ilham Ahmed, identified as “a co-president of the Democratic Council of Syria”. Continue reading

Turkey Continues to Protest the Coalition’s Syrian Kurdish Allies

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on November 22, 2016

Saleh Muslim Muhammad

This morning, Turkey issued arrest warrants for forty-eight members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has fought a forty-year war against the Turkish state. The PKK is listed as terrorist by Ankara, Britain, the European Union, NATO, and the United States. Among those being sought is Saleh Muslim Muhammad, the leader of the Syrian branch of the PKK, known as the Democratic Union Party (PYD), whose armed wing—the People’s Protection Units (YPG)—happens to be the favoured Western instrument in combatting the Islamic State (IS) in Syria. The West has long denied or obfuscated the fact it is working with an organization that a NATO partner considers its nemesis and a long-standing threat to its national security. The Turks, it seems, are not content to let this ambiguity stand, and there are good reasons of Western self-interest why the alliance with the PKK deserves another look. Continue reading

Coalition Allies Play Into Islamic State’s Hands

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on November 14, 2016

Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) fighters in Dohuk in northern Iraq, 14 May 2013, Azad Lashkari/Reuters

Last week, a member of the Kurdish militia that is the primary instrument the U.S.-led Coalition is using in Syria to defeat the Islamic State (IS) was killed. Examining his biography underlined that this militia is the Syrian wing of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a Marxist-separatist group that is registered as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, and Turkey. The Western powers continue to obfuscate, if not outright deny, this fact, but Coalition support for the PKK—questionable morally and legally in and of itself—is producing negative results on the ground that help IS over the long-term. Continue reading