What are the reasons behind the US’s last decision on the PKK?
While the U.S. State Department’s decision was positively received in Ankara at first sight, it led to confusion in many circles and brought with it a debate on the motives behind this initiative.
Why has the U.S., which recognized the PKK as a “foreign terror organization” in 1997 and handed over its leader Abdulah Öcalan to Turkey in 1999, waited nearly 20 years to make this decision, is an additional question that arises within these debates?
While looking for an answer to these questions, the best way is to start by defining from which part of the U.S. administration this initiative has come.
Firstly, let’s underline the fact that at a time when soldiers under the authority of the Pentagon (U.S. Department of Defense) are undertaking joint patrols on the Syrian border with the YPG, the Syrian wing of the PKK, at the expense of irritating Turkey, this decision has been made public by the U.S. State Department.
Then can we accept this as a move that came from outside the Pentagon.
At any rate, it is unthinkable for the U.S. State Department to make such a statement without the consent of the White House.
Now, let’s focus on the reasons that triggered the decision.
The first can be related to certain concerns in Washington about Turkey. This move comes at a time when concerns have been intensifying over Turkey distancing from the West as a result of rapprochement with Russia and consolidating towards a permanent brotherhood in arms.
Russia has become the rising actor with its gains from its cooperation with Turkey at a time when relations with the U.S. have deteriorated on all fronts and public perception in Turkey regarding the U.S. has taken a nose dive.
It is likely that the urge to avoid losing Turkey and to end the deterioration trend in relations has turned into a policy decision.
It appears that these decision makers have felt the need in view of U.S. interests to put on the brakes at some point.
It is also important that this development has taken place right before the meeting that is expected to happen between President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and U.S. President Donald Trump next Sunday, Nov. 11 in Paris.
The U.S. State Department has also announced on Nov. 5 that Turkey will be exempted from the sanctions applied towards Iran.
When taking into account both of these moves, it is possible to state that the U.S. side wants to open the way for the normalization of ties and to prepare the ground for a successful meeting in Paris.
We need to underline this factor too: Instead of making use of its very strong intelligence capabilities like the CIA, which could identify the whereabouts of Murat Karayılan, the U.S. decision to put bounties to encourage third parties for this mission leads to suspicions in terms of credibility.
This factor brings to mind that there might be a public relations dimension with specific psychology behind this decision.
Even so, it would be unfair to claim the decision carries no value.
From which ever point you look at, it is impossible to think this statement will not put serious pressure on the freedom of movement of the PKK leadership in Kandil.
At this point one should lend an ear to a prominent expert on terror like Nihat Ali Özcan.
In his evaluation published in daily Milliyet Özcan evaluated US’ move as an effort to break the relationship between YPG presence in Syria and
PKK’s central chain of command system. In other words he claims that the United States wants to create a differentiation between PKK center and YPG cadres.
If there is such unbundling strategy, one should not ignore this reality.
The tie between PKK and its Syrian wing in Syria YPG is based on an organic relationship.
YPG, is an organization created upon the instruction of Abdullah Öcalan.
PKK and YPG part of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) created again upon the instruction of Abdullah Öcalan in 2005.
Terrorists affiliated with PKK from Turkey who have received training in the PKK camps in Qandil are among the YPG command cadres.
Isn’t there an oddity that while US tries to forge a military alliance on the field with the YPG, it introduces bounties for Murat Karayılan, Cemil Bayık and Duran Kalkan from the leadership cadre with the power to give instructions to YPG?
It is impossible for the Turkish – US relations to get rid of this shadow so long United States wil continue to work with the YPG in the field.