October 28, 2014

What To Do About The PKK?

Today the Kurdish commander in Kobani asks for more help in fighting ISIS.

Since Sept. 15, we, the people of the Syrian town of Kobani, have been fighting, outnumbered and outgunned, against an all-out assault by the army of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS.

Yet despite a campaign that has intensified in the past month, including the deployment of United States-made tanks and armored vehicles, the Islamic State has not been able to break the resistance of Kobaniís fighters.

We are defending a democratic, secular society of Kurds, Arabs, Muslims and Christians who all face an imminent massacre.

Kobaniís resistance has mobilized our entire society, and many of its leaders, including myself, are women. Those of us on the front lines are well aware of the Islamic Stateís treatment of women. We expect women around the world to help us, because we are fighting for the rights of women everywhere. We do not expect them to come to join our fight here (though we would be proud if any did). But we do ask women to promote our case and to raise awareness of our situation in their own countries, and to pressure their governments to help us.

We are thankful to the coalition for its intensified airstrikes against Islamic State positions, which have been instrumental in limiting the ability of our enemies to use tanks and heavy artillery. But we had been fighting without any logistical assistance from the outside world until the limited coalition airdrops of weapons and supplies on Oct. 20. Airdrops of supplies should continue, so that we do not run out of ammunition.

None of that changes the reality that our weapons still cannot match those of the Islamic State.

Another story of Kurdish resistance against ISIS on NPR this morning brings up the terrorist designation of the PKK who are also fighting ISIS.
At a checkpoint outside the northern Iraq town of Makhmur, I saw something I'd never seen before in Iraq.

Two men were checking cars. One was young and wearing a sand-colored uniform of the official Iraqi Kurdish forces, called the peshmerga. The other was older, grizzled and dressed in an olive-green, traditional Kurdish overall, and he's with Turkey's Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

"We're happy to be working together," said the older man, Hajji Hussein Abdulrahman.

This is a new development. Until recently, Iraqi Kurdish authorities and the peshmerga didn't deal much with the PKK. There's a long rivalry between the two. Plus, Turkey and the U.S. consider the PKK to be terrorists based on their attacks against civilian targets in Turkey for many years.

But some of those attitudes began to change when the self-described Islamic State, also known as ISIS, charged into northern Iraq and overran large chunks of territory, including this town in June.

The peshmerga were struggling to fight back. But thousands of PKK supporters, who had been kicked out of Turkey, were living in a nearby refugee camp. They picked up their old rifles and joined the fray.

...This isn't the only place were Kurdish fighters have been active. On northern Iraq's Mount Sinjar in August, the PKK helped tens of thousands of minority Yazidis escape the advancing Islamic State.

And the Syrian Kurdish militia, known as the YPG, has been battling to keep the Islamic State out of the town of Kobani.

In the main Iraqi Kurdish city, Irbil, Shiman Eminoglu is a politician from the BDP party, which leans strongly toward the PKK. She says the PKK is fighting for everyone's benefit, and that this should be recognized by the United States.

The mention is that the PKK got into trouble during the 1990's while trying to carve a Kurdish homeland out of southern Turkey. Today a Kurdish female fighter blowing herself up as a last desperate resort against ISIS is a story of bravery. But back then such attacks against Turkish police and other civilian targets in Turkey earned the PKK a terrorist designation.

Then there was no hope of a Iraqi Kurdistan, any hope of Kursish independence in Iraq was quickly dealt with by Saddam's general Chemical Ali. That's not true today. Today there can be an Iraqi Kurdistan. An opportunity is within reach.

I propose that in return for the PKK swearing off any further actions in Turkey some sort of assurance that the Kurds will get their independence or at least a Semi-Autonomous state in Northern Iraq should be offered.

If the parties agree the terrorist designation on the PKK under a strict trial basis could be lifted. It would help the Kurds against ISIS which helps US against ISIS and also Turkey would see its interests protected.

So long as the PKK held up its end of the bargain it could create a larger more unified Kurdish force fighting for their own unified interest. An interest that would dovetail nicely with US, Turkish and Iraqi interests.

The Turks would be hard to drag along, but with the right agreement that gives the Kurds a hope possibly Turkey might bite.

By Howie at 10:06 AM | Comments |