Saturday, December 8, 2007

PKK may be divided along ethnic lines

Below article sent to me by a friend. Though it's origin is a newspaper I dont fallow, dont like the views, it seemed good to share to get a clearer view.

PKK may be divided along ethnic lines

As ironic as it might sound, the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) organization that has been waging a war of ethnic separatism against Turkey for the past 30 years may be risking division along ethnic lines within itself, recent intelligence reports suggest.

Recent operations Turkey has been carrying out against PKK bases in the Kandil Mountains of northern Iraq have revealed leadership struggles within the organization. Currently members of the group from Turkey are being eliminated, intensifying the fight for leadership between Syrian-born Fehman Hüseyin and Turkish-born Murat Karayılan. Karayılan, who acceded to the top of the PKK hierarchy after the capture of PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan in 1999, had strengthened his hand when Öcalan's brother Osman Öcalan was also eliminated from the group.

His only rival was Cemal Bayık, but the rivalry was resolved when the two men chose to cooperate, mostly because Hüseyin, leader of the PKK’s Syrian Kurds, declared himself leader of the group. Hüseyin issued a declaration saying he had taken over and promised to return the PKK’s old fighter spirit. As such, Syrian Kurds and Turkish Kurds in the PKK are now competing for influence over the group. Meanwhile Iranian Kurds in the PKK, although neutral in general, seem to be standing closer to Kurds from Turkey.

Karayılan and Bayık had shown their discomfort at Abdullah Öcalan’s inclusion of Kurds of Syrian decent into the senior leadership of the PKK’s armed wing, the People’s Defense Units (HPG). Syrian Kurd Hüseyin, who commands Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK), seems for now to have the upper hand in the struggle for leadership that intensified after Turkey took steps to pressure the international arena to respect its right to self-defense and a military operation against terrorist bases in Iraq.

Names known to be close to Hüseyin have either been killed or sacked from the significant positions they held inside the PKK. Intelligence reports suggest that 20 PKK members known to have sworn allegiance to Hüseyin were recently executed. Intelligence sources also say that some of the recent cease-fires unilaterally declared by the PKK were actually breaks the group took to sort out the ever-intensifying conflict within itself. Some even suggest that the killing of seven village guards -- paramilitary forces comprising armed locals -- in Beşağaç in the southeastern city of Şırnak and the killing of 12 Turkish troops in Dağlıca were caused by the PKK’s internal leadership struggle.

Hüseyin has criticized Bayık and Karayılan for being too passive, while the two PKK leaders from Turkey accuse Hüseyin of being the pawn of international powers dominant in the region.

Karayılan and Bayık suspect that the US is thinking of using Hüseyin against Syria for its own purposes, further saying that Syrian Kurds were not this influential even in those times when the PKK was based in Syria, suggesting US plans in the region are the reason Hüseyin can act so fearlessly.

Intelligence reports from the Turkish military and police have long suggested that since the PKK left the Bekaa Valley in Syria, where its bases were hidden before Turkey warned Syria to stop harboring terrorists, and moved to northern Iraq, it became an instrument of international forces influential in the region.

Increasingly, more Syrian and Iranian Kurds and even Armenian militants have joined the group. The group is currently one of the most important cards all powers can play to realize their Middle East plans.

Although this card was played extensively against Turkey until very recently, the recent situation indicates that Syria will have to deal with it after this point. This is why many believe that although the US recently announced that the PKK is a “common enemy” of the US and Turkey, thanks to diplomatic efforts of the later, it will not be working to end all PKK activity in the region. The PKK’s elimination from the region in this case is likely to be limited to the terrorists from Turkey; an argument that strengthens the possibility of recent news suggesting that Bayık and Karayılan would be handed over to Turkey being true. Sources say if this duo is handed over to Turkey, this would help in the purging militants from Turkey from the organization.

According to Turkish intelligence units, the PKK is currently fractured into different groups. There is the Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan (PJAK), which operates mainly in Iran although it is essentially the same group as the PKK. PJAK militants are trained in northern Iraqi camps along with PKK militants. Intelligence reports show that 40 percent of the approximately 5,000 militants hiding in northern Iraq are from Syria. When the PKK was under Abdullah Öcalan’s control, the percentage of Syrian Kurds inside the group was about 10 percent.

The group is finding it increasingly difficult to recruit new militants in Turkey due to the recent military operations Turkey has been carrying out in northern Iraq. Syrian Kurds in the PKK blame Karayılan and Bayık for dragging Turkish troops into northern Iraq. Militants from Syria, reports suggest, are hiding in Syria to wait til military operations in northern Iraq end. PKK militants from Turkey, who are nested in a few villages in the Kandil Mountains, are trying to escape into Iran or Turkey with the help of PJAK. Some are even trying to get to Armenia to spend the winter there; which shows that Turkey’s obtaining a satisfactory result in its operation in northern Iraq is unlikely. Optimists emphasize that even driving PKK militants out of the Kandil Mountains area is a great achievement, likely to be enough to dissolve the PKK or at least greatly help that in happening.

Meanwhile, both Iran and Syria -- both certain that PJAK and the PKK will be played against them -- are stepping up measures against the terrorists. Iran is putting up a fierce fight against PJAK; Turkey has the full support of its neighbors in its fight against the PKK and all of its offshoots. Syria has increased pressure against the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the PKK extension in its territory. Sources also highlight that Syria has been working in full cooperation with Turkey recently and that it has put its military units at the Iraqi border on full alert against the PKK.

Zaman Newspaper

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