MESOP ANALYSIS: Is the Iranian regime connected to the PKK terror group?

Kurdish news agencies report that there is a secret agreement between the PKK and the Iranian government, where the PKK suspends all operations against Iran and prevents other Iranian opposition groups from carrying out hostile actions in exchange for Iran supporting the PKK. May 28, 2015, 05:00PM | Rachel Avraham – ytnews – Jerusalem online – Recently, local Kurdish news agencies reported that there has been a secret agreement between the PKK and the Iranian government.   According to the report, the agreement stresses that the PKK is to suspend all operations against Iran and to prevent other Iranian opposition groups from carrying out hostile actions against the Islamic Republic in exchange for Iran supporting the PKK, especially in Iraq. “We are certain that the PKK was ordered by the Iranian government to stop the KDPI because they were concerned about military operations following the latest protests in Mahabad and Sardash in Iranian Kurdistan,” a Kurdish source told BasNews.

   Ihsan Efrini, the International Relations Chairman of the Kurdistan National Assembly, told JerusalemOnline in an exclusive interview, “Today, we see great cooperation between the Iranian Intelligence and the PKK in defeating the uprising in Iranian Kurdistan. We all witnessed the Peshmerga being killed by PKK guerillas. Most of the Peshmerga operational territories have been surrounded by PKK fighters and these territories have been attacked by the PKK in order to reduce pressure on the Iranian regime.”  

According to the International Business Times, these protests were “one of the biggest Kurdish uprisings against the Iranian regime in years.” Buildings burnt to the ground, law enforcement vehicles were destroyed, and hundreds of arrests took place.   “Iranian Kurds are planning to carry out a comprehensive revolution and there are armed Kurdish Iranian political parties positioning themselves for the revolution,” Iraqi human rights lawyer Sarkawt Kamal Ali told the International Business Times.   This reality is believed to be the reason why the Iranian regime decided to utilize the PKK in order to attack the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI) along the Iranian-Iraqi border this week.

Sharif Behruz, the former US Representative of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI) and the current Iran Roundtable President, told JerusalemOnline in an exclusive interview: “Following the crisis in the region, PKK is still in the caps of the Shiite crescent, as the top person of the PKK Camil Bayak is an Alawi Shia himself.   Unfortunately, in Syria, the PKK’s relationship was against the Kurdish national movement in Syria and it is the same with Iran as well. The mere fact that the PKK has been able to use the territories between Iran and Iraq as their bases for many years to conduct their fight against the Turkish state has been due to the blessing and support of the Iranians. Both sides have their reasons for such cooperation, but certainly it is not in the best interests of the Kurds in Iran.”

The PKK has a problematic history. Founded by Abdullah Ocalan in 1978 as a Marxist-Leninist group, they are labeled as a terror organization by the EU and US. In the past, they fought alongside Palestinian terror groups against Israel. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, in the mid-1980’s: “they relied on guerrilla warfare that included the kidnapping of foreign tourists in Turkey, suicide bombings, and attacks on Turkish diplomatic offices in Europe. The PKK has repeatedly attacked civilians that refused to assist it. In 1993, the PKK launched coordinated attacks involving firebombs and vandalism on Turkish diplomatic and commercial offices in six Western European countries. PKK operatives have used bombs and grenades at tourist sites in Istanbul and Turkish seaside resorts. As fighting reached a peak in the mid-1990’s, thousands of villages were destroyed in southeastern and eastern Turkey. During the fighting in southeast Turkey, PKK terrorists also killed civilians and village guards loyal to the Turkish government. An estimated 37,000 people have been killed in the fighting.”  

Efrini explained that after Ocalan’s arrest in 1999, the PKK began to transform itself into an instrument utilized by the Iranian and Syrian government in order to oppress other Kurdish groups affiliated with the West: “On August 13, 2011, the Turkish intelligence gave information to the Iranian intelligence about the gathering of PKK leaders in a village in Iranian Kurdistan. The Iranian Intelligence arrested all of them.   Then, the Iranian intelligence invited in Salih Muslim, the leader of the PYD that was residing in Iraqi Kurdistan. After a one week meeting, they sent Bahoz Ardel, Salih Muslim, and a third one to Damascus, where they were welcomed by Intelligence Head General Ali Mamluk. Following the one week meeting in Damascus, they headed to Syrian Kurdistan, where there was a peaceful revolution.”

“They started to coordinate with the Syrian authorities and assist them in hunting the organizers of the demonstrations that had been held against the Syrian regime,” Efrini emphasized. “The PYD that were taking all of their orders from the Qandil Mountains were Iranian and the PKK have a joint operational center conducted from there for all the operations in Syrian Kurdistan. The PKK brought back to the scene the occupier of Kurdistan to serve their interest in the region and defeat the aspirations of the Kurdish nation.”  

According to Israeli investigative journalist Adina Kutnicki, “Damascus and Tehran are working through the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and their military wing the People’s Protection Units (YPG) to divide the region and install puppet leaders who can control the Kurds. The PYD and YPG are working with Iranian and Syrian intelligence officers to directly serve their interests at expense of the majority of the Syrian Kurds. This includes changing the Kurdish area’s demographics by dividing it into cantons and displacing one million Syrian Kurds who have become refugees in neighboring states. The PYD, YPG, and many other groups in the Kurdish region of Syria are staging fighting to get international support and alienate other groups.”

Al Monitor reported that Former Turkish Interior Minister Naim Saim stated that the PKK “is using Iran for accommodation, transit, training, medical care, recruiting, financing and propaganda. Moreover, some weapons transfers are conducted from there.” Today’s Zaman even reported a couple of years ago the existence of an Iranian spy ring in Turkey that was cooperating with the PKK in order to “foment an uprising among the Kurdish population in southern and southeastern Turkey.”  

The PKK’s connections with the Iranian regime are especially detrimental in light of recent revelations reported in JerusalemOnline that the Iranian regime is cooperating with ISIS in order to crush the Balochi National Movement in Pakistan and persecute Balochis in Afghanistan.   However, there are hints that the Iranian regime’s connection with ISIS expands beyond the Balochi issue.

The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs reported that the non-Islamist Syrian opposition claims ISIS is an Iranian creation while another source proclaimed: “We are familiar with the commanders of ISIS. Once, they belonged to Assad’s intelligence and now they are operating on his behalf under the name of ISIS.” According to Efrini, “Most of the ISIS leaders were released from Lebanese, Syrian, Iraqi and Iranian prisons. Some who had been captured by the FSA had on their passport Iran listed as the last entrance country.   Most of the Al Qaeda and ISIS were trained in territory controlled by the Syrian Alawite regime.”    

As a result, Efrini does not see a difference between Al Qaeda, ISIS, and the PKK because they hold similar principles with no objective goals: “Regarding the connection between them, all of them belong to one school. We all know that the PKK evolved and was empowered by the Syrian and Iranian regime because the PKK leadership is all Alawi. The Syrian and Iranian regime brought all of these extremist groups to ruin the image of the Syrian Revolution in order to give the international community the message that their government is also under the threat of extremism.   However, we saw in so many places in North-East Aleppo and lately in Damascus that Syrian forces were withdrawing from territory to let ISIS take over without resistance. Similarly, the PKK took over all intelligence and government departments without any resistance from the government’s side.”

The question remains, what has motivated Iran to support the PKK and to bring them into the Syria-Iran-ISIS equation?     Despite the Shia-Sunni rivalry, ISIS is a fellow Islamist group that serves the purpose of helping to crush Balochi nationalism, improving Iran’s and Syria’s global image, is assisting in the crushing of the Syrian Revolution, and in spreading radical Islam around the globe. Iranian human rights activists have also noted that both ISIS and Iranian backed groups employ similar tactics as well. One might ponder, what does the PKK have to contribute from an Iranian perspective other than to create division within the Kurdish community and to help crush opposition groups? After all, what does a Marxist-Leninist group have in common with Shia Islamist Iran other than the fact their leadership is Alawi, an offshoot of Shia Islam?   How could Islamist Iran support a group that actively recruits under-age girls that prance around immodestly dressed from an Islamist perspective and wage the masculine activity of engaging in warfare?  

While Assad’s regime that is also secular Baathist enhances the Iranian axis despite differences in ideology, supporting a Kurdish group based in Turkey could backfire in relations to Iran’s own Kurdish minority, even though the PKK adopted a non-confrontational stance towards Iran.   After all, the same arguments for an independent Kurdistan in Turkish territory apply to Iran as well. But despite this fact, Iran and Turkey are rivals in the Syrian conflict as well as in the struggle for regional influence. Iran actively supports Assad’s regime, while Turkey promotes the rebels. While Iran seeks to establish a Shia Empire that includes Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen, the Turkish government seeks to re-establish the Ottoman Empire.   This prompts Iran to take a confrontational stance towards Turkey but they refrain from making it direct. Therefore, according to Al Monitor, “In indirect challenges, the cheapest method is to use terror.   This is why Iran, Iraq and Syria have become a free zone for the PKK.”