Tag Archives: PKK

The Idlib Offensive: Delayed, Not Cancelled

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 20 September 2018

For about two months, it has seemed that an offensive by Bashar al-Assad’s regime, Iran, and Russia into Idlib was imminent, with disastrous humanitarian and strategic consequences. On Monday, an agreement was reached between Turkey and Russia that put a halt to this prospect, at least for now. There is good reason to think the pro-Assad forces are delaying, rather than cancelling, their plans to reconquer Idlib, but the extra time gives space to Turkey to alter the terms politically. Continue reading

The Man Who Made Crime Pay For the Islamic State

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 9 September 2018

The United States has launched at least five raids into Syria to date, all of them against the Islamic State (IS).[1] The second such raid, on 15 May 2015, killed Fathi al-Tunisi (Abu Sayyaf al-Iraqi), who oversaw critical revenue-generating criminal schemes for the group. Al-Tunisi was primarily responsible for the oil industry in eastern Syria, in which capacity he collaborated with Bashar al-Asad’s regime, and he worked as head of the Antiquities Division of IS Diwan al-Rikaz, which translates literally as the “Department of Precious Things That Come Out of the Ground”, usually given as the “Department of Natural Resources”. Al-Tunisi was what is sometimes termed a “middle manager”: the connective tissue between the most senior levels of the leadership and local administrators, ensuring smooth coordination between the two by inter alia keeping the books. In short, the kind of terrorist operative that keeps an organisation going. Continue reading

The State of Play in Syria and Iraq on the Eve of the Idlib Offensive

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 29 August 2018

Two ideas that have become quite prevalent are that the Islamic State is defeated or on its way to defeat and that the Syrian war is winding down. Both are gravely mistaken. Continue reading

Leftists Claim Arson Attack on German Think Tank

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 27 August 2018

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

Islamic State Leader Urges Patience as the Path to Victory

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 22 August 2018

The leader of the Islamic State (IS), Ibrahim al-Badri (Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi), released a nearly 55-minute audio statement today, his first statement for eleven months, which in turn came eleven months after the prior speech. This is al-Badri’s thirteenth speech since he became leader of the IS movement in May 2010 and the eighth since IS declared the restoration of the caliphate in June 2014. The title of today’s speech, “Give Glad Tidings to the Patient”, is drawn from a verse of the Qur’an that promises “glad [or good] tidings” in Paradise to those who remain steadfast on the path of faith in life, which is very much the theme al-Badri sticks to. Continue reading

Turkey’s War Against the PKK on the Near Abroad

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 21 August 2018

Ismail Özden (image source)

Turkey killed a senior operative of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the internationally-recognised terrorist organisation and narcotics trafficking entity 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

Australia’s No-Nonsense Approach to the PKK

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 17 August 2018

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