New opportunity spaces for the PKK as a ‘united operation force’

New opportunity spaces for the PKK as a ‘united operation force’

The negotiations between the government and outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan are continuing. The government has two particular concerns; the first regards the reaction of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), while the second regards the powerful signs that negotiations with Öcalan will complicate the problem in the medium term.

In recent weeks, the MHP demonstrated that it has the capacity to mobilize masses and put the government in a difficult position. In other words, it seems that the power of the street made the prime minister very angry.

Another concern of the government is that the Öcalan-based strategy of “managing the process with one man” could be interrupted and that the process will have unintended, medium-term consequences. Erdoğan is working to a tight deadline and can see that the chances of realizing his career plan in 2014 depend on addressing the aforementioned concerns.

In contrast to such concerns from Erdoğan, Öcalan and the PKK seem content with the process. At every stage of the process, the PKK benefits. In light of its past experiences in the Middle East, the organization notes that it can take some short-term military measures at the tactical level without compromising its medium-term political interests. Therefore, its activities are spread over time and continue in different regions.

First, the PKK is silently observing the Iranian front where it maintains its mostly local armed groups. It still hopes that it can acquire maximum gain from important developments in Iran which could provide new opportunity spaces. For this reason, the PKK is trying to understand the discourse and reactions of Israel and the United States.

Second, the PKK is also observing the developments in Iraq. Its activities aimed at strengthening its military and political status in northern Iraq continue. Subsequently, it is taking note of the new shape of regional and local politics. From time to time, it reminds the oil companies that it still has an important role in the region. Although this wider picture seems too complex, it certainly provides new political and military opportunity spaces.

Third, the PKK is very active on the Syrian front. As Turkey sends strong signals that it will change its attitude toward the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the PKK is becoming militarily and politically more active.

Finally, the PKK knows that the European front will have an important political and diplomatic role to play in the near future and is taking the necessary steps in this context.

All these activities will be greatly affected by the developments in Turkey. An organization like the PKK shaped by the culture of long-term popular warfare never takes a military step that will not be translated into political benefit. Next week, I will focus on the Turkey front of the PKK which operates in different countries as a “united operation force.”