Do you think the PKK is stupid?

Do you think the PKK is stupid?

Turkey-Syria relations are getting tenser by the day. Turkey is not only criticizing the Syrian government for its methods but also drawing attention to the PKK problem.

Some people are pushing Turkey toward Syria by using the PKK argument, but nobody feels the need to question whether this argument is consistent. Nowadays, the question of whether these arguments can be substantiated is less important than the fact that there are “great men” who are willing to buy them.

PKK’s striking a deal with Syria for sponsorship goes against the grain of the nature of this organization, simply because it is not stupid. The PKK, established 33 years ago, has managed to survive. It owes this to three important factors: first, foreign support and safe havens; second, the existence of a leadership suitable for the cultural norms of the society and the region; and finally, the organization’s capacity to adapt to the political ecosystem, that is, its capacities as a learning organization.

The most vital issue for the PKK’s survival is having a “safe haven.” The PKK has always and easily had this, because it has always had an effective “capacity” which it could offer to its sponsors. As a matter of fact, its ability to create instability in Turkey has made the PKK an organization worth supporting. The PKK has been supported for different reasons over the course of time. Water, energy, ideological competition and a clash of interests are among these reasons.

The Middle East, with its constant instability and political clashes, offers unique opportunities for the PKK. For example, Syria and Lebanon under Syrian control served as a political, training and logistic base for the PKK between 1979 and 1999. Iran between 1982 and 2001, Greece between 1980 and 1999, and Russia between 1978 and 2009 followed a similar path and this is still not an exhaustive list. After settling in northern Iraq in 1982, the PKK is quite comfortable and putting its ducks in a row for new action when there is a need. But, contrary to the claims, Syria’s name is not ranking among the existing sponsors list. Moreover, the PKK does not need this.

It is not possible to dissociate the PKK from its leader Abdullah Öcalan. Öcalan bears a close resemblance to Saddam with his barbarity, to Hafez al-Assad with his ruse and to Turkish politicians with his populist stance. He spent a longer-than-average life in the Middle East where the stupid don’t have a chance to live longer and find support. He owes this to his abilities as well as his luck.

The PKK is also a “learning organization,” as are all other terrorist organizations. It always succeeds in taking lessons from the goings-on around it. Backing the wrong horse is against its grain. If PKK’s decision makers are average newspaper readers, they should understand that they should not accompany Syria. To say it differently, the PKK does need to return to an insolvent sponsor by raking up the past.

But, some people are expecting us to believe in new stories by ruling out the PKK’s swimmingly operating sponsorships. Even if their arguments are not consistent, it is always possible for them to find stupid for sale in this geography. The truth is the stupid do not live long in the Middle East.