Could the PKK Dominate in Iran?

31/01/2013 RUDAW – By WLADIMIR van WILGENBURG – The Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its People’s Defence Units (YPG) – both affiliates of the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) – were able to sideline other Kurdish groups and quickly gain the upper hand after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces withdrew from Kurdish areas.  This was because the other Kurdish parties are heavily divided and inexperienced in fighting. – Would the PKK equally prevail against other Kurdish groups if the Iranian regime were ever to weaken?

Syrian Kurds had never engaged in an armed conflict against the Syrian government, because they lacked the numbers and beneficial geographical conditions. They were also weakened by other Kurdish parties from outside Syria that maintained relations with Damascus.

Under the leadership of the PKK, many Syrian Kurds were allowed to fight alongside the Syrian government during the PKK-Assad alliance against Ankara. This fell apart in 1998, when the PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan was expelled from Damascus. Things are different in Iran: Although Kurdish parties there have been split in different factions and are heavily divided, most still maintain fighters and train them in their camps in the Kurdistan Region. Moreover, their ample fighting experience has been gained not only in combat with Iranian forces but also in armed conflicts with other Kurdish parties.

Similarly, in Iraq, the PKK was unable in the past to assert much control over Kurdish areas there due to the presence of other armed Kurdish parties that were armed.  This is one reason that the PKK in Iraq only controls some parts of the strategic Qandil mountains. The PKK-affiliated Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK) will be one of the main Kurdish parties in Iran, if the Tehran regime weakens. But it will be unable to establish full control over the Iranian Kurdish areas by force, as it has in Syria.