Why PKK & Peshmerga Locking Horns

The military clash that took place at the start of this month between the Peshmerga mainly belonging to Iraqi Kurdistan biggest political party Kurdistan Development Party (KDP) and the fighters of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Is sparking debate on whether these two Kurdish giants are about to get into a full-fledged confrontation. The Defence Ministry of the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) stated that five Peshmerga were ambushed and killed by PKK guerrillas, while another four were injured. The PKK, for its part, said it does not want the Peshmerga to enter the area of confrontation between them and the Turkish military and that this was the reason for the incident. 

This incident happened in Amedi, a small town in the Duhok province of Kurdistan. Both these organizations are flag bearers of the Kurdish cause in their respective territories. The PKK is a Kurdish separatist organization founded in Turkey by Abdullah Ocalan in 1974. Initially, it took inspiration from communist ideology, is motivated by Pan-Kurdish ideals, and aimed to unite the Kurds of all countries. While the Peshmerga is the regular force of the Kurdistan Regional Government which is dominated by Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) the senior partner in the Kurdistan Regional Government. PKK and KDP are both prominent Kurdish organizations and sometimes they work together, like during the war against Daesh but they are distinct. Technically the PKK is a party with a militia, while the Peshmerga is the official armed forces of Iraqi Kurdistan. Now let’s have a look at the factors which are responsible for clashes between these two groups.

KRG Economic Relations with Turkey

KRG has strong relations with Ankara in the fields of oil and other businesses. Economic dependency on Turkey is essential for the KRG’s survival. The KRG exports most of its oil (about 450,000 barrels per day) and gas through pipelines that pass-through Turkey to the Mediterranean. This infrastructure made the KRG more dependent on Turkish cooperation, given Baghdad’s objections to the KRG’s unilateral exportation of energy. That’s why KRG's main partner i.e., KDP is often pressurized by Turks to take stern steps to check the anti-Turkey activities of PKK in Kurdistan.

Pan Kurdish Agenda 

As a result of Saddam Hussein’s harsh repression of Kurds and the protection provided by the United States, which declared a no-fly zone in the north of Iraq. Iraqi Kurds were able to consolidate their autonomy in the north of the country and in 2017 went as far as organizing a referendum to proclaim their independence. More than 92 percent of voters supported independence. But the KRG refrained from proclaiming it because of then-prevailing international circumstances. Therefore, the Kurdish cause in Iraq is ahead of similar movements in other countries, but it does not aim at a Pan-Kurdish target. But on the other hand, PKK has a pan-Kurdish agenda for a homeland straddling Syria, Turkey, Iraq, and Iran has often put it at odds with Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish government.

Border Control

The PKK has created or revived border-crossing corridors on the Syrian-Iraqi border that its affiliate militants regularly use, diluting the border in a way reminiscent of the Islamic State. On the Iraqi side, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) has managed to maintain its hold over several parts of this border segment, despite its retreat from Sinjar after the failed independence referendum in 2017. The KRG autonomous administration wishes to transform their territorial authority into a sustainable reality, mainly by formalizing it and gaining internal and international recognition. This can be best done by taking over total control of international borders falling under Kurdistan. On the contrary, the PKK and affiliated groups seek a broad territorial reengineering that trespasses the border in favour of transnational pan-Kurdish solidarity. One that also defies the traditional authorities on which the KDP relies for its patronage networks and practical governance.

Growing Casualties from Turkish strikes 

The PKK maintains camps in northern Iraq mainly Kurdistan mountainous areas where training is provided in ideology, weaponry, and guerrilla warfare. Also, The Turkish military has maintained its own bases in northern Iraq since the mid-1990s thanks to security agreements originally reached with Saddam Hussein’s Baath party. Turks want to curb the PKK’s ability to move between its camps in Iraqi Kurdistan, which are spread on a long stretch from the Qandil Mountains where its headquarters is based to the Syrian frontier to the west. Turkey regularly conducts artillery bombardment, drone attacks, and airstrikes into Kurdistan targeting PKK hideouts. But civilians also get hit by these strikes and the pressure of the local people is growing on Kurdish authorities to curtain PKK activities. Also, KDP accuses the PKK of trying to turn Kurdistan into a battlefield to settle its accounts with Turkey. Hence, they want PKK to take their fight with Turkey to their own land.

Iraqi Kurdistan region is viewed as the island of peace, prosperity, and tranquillity as it’s the most stable and secured area in the whole country. No one should be allowed to destabilize it and Kurdish parties should aim to resolve any differences through dialogue and talks rather than by force. Otherwise, if these growing tensions are not checked in time, we can witness a full-fledged civil war like the one in the mid-1990s that took place between the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).

(Author is a columnist for Middle-East and Af-Pak region and Editor of the geo-political news agency ViewsAround can be reached at manishraiva@gmail.com) 

Source: https://www.risingkashmir.com/-Why-PKK---Peshmerga-Locking-Horns--69421


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