PKK set to fight against Islamists in Iraq

PKK set to fight against Islamists in Iraq

The fall of Mosul into the hands of Islamist militants, led by the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), has the potential to ignite a region-wide war, with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) announcing that its militants are ready to fight the Islamists together with the peshmerga.

ISIL made clear yesterday its stance against Turkey by raiding the Turkish Consulate in Mosul and abducting the consul general and other diplomatic staff. The jihadist group’s view against the Shiite Alevis was already clear: They can be killed, and ruthlessly.

Proudly posting its murders and beheadings of civilians - who they say are "guilty" of being Shiite - on social media, ISIL has also been fighting against Kurdish groups, mainly the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria’s north.

The jihadist group’s advance in northern Iraq has prompted a fierce reaction from Kurdish groups, especially from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). KRG Prime Minster Necirvan Barzani blamed the central government for the crisis, while also ordering the peshmerga to be ready for fighting.

The PKK, which has a strong presence of armed militants in Iraqi Kurdistan, announced yesterday that its militants were ready to fight alongside the peshmerga against ISIL. With the YPG, an offshoot of the PKK, fighting against the Islamist group in Syria, the PKK’s move does not come as a surprise. But it came at a time of high tensions between the KRG and the armed Kurdish group.

The KRG refused to recognize and help the de facto Kurdish autonomous region in northern Syria, drawing reactions from other Kurdish groups. Additionally, the security forces of the KRG raided in May the offices of some media outlets with close links to the PKK, detaining the employees. The PKK strongly condemned the raids, claiming that they were the result of recent close ties between Turkey and the KRG.

In its statement yesterday, the PKK said the recent attacks by ISIL “proved once again the necessity of building Kurdish national unity.”

“The gains of Kurdistan are today under threat, but Kurdistan is not without defense,” read the written statement, carried by the Fırat news agency. “The guerrilla forces of Kurdistan hold enough power to respond to the attacks of ISIL under any conditions, and are ready to fight actively with peshmerga forces and offer full support.”

The PKK, whose number of armed militants is estimated at around 10,000, declared a cease-fire over a year ago and has not staged a major attack on Turkish targets since then. If the armed group is actively involved in the fighting, there is unfortunately a possibility that the tensions will spread to Turkey.

It is no secret ISIL, until recently, enjoyed the open support of some groups in Turkey for its role in the fight against the Bashar al-Assad regime. The jihadists of ISIL, and other Islamist groups, freely entered and exited Turkish soil from the not-well-protected Syrian border. The Kurds in northern Syria claimed that Turkey supported ISIL to prevent the establishment of a de facto Kurdish state in the region. Turkish Hizbullah, a Sunni armed group that was used as a tool by state institutions in the fight against the PKK in the 1990s, is believed to have close links to ISIL.

The region surrounding Turkey is up in flames, the fighting in Iraq and Syria will soon likely directly involve Turkish citizens, but the situation was still not on Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s agenda until the Turkish consulate in Mosul was raided. An emergency meeting, chaired by the prime minister, was held in the afternoon, but he did not say a single word about the situation in Iraq in the morning when he addressed his ruling party’s mayors.

Instead, he called on the mayors to take back the buildings and plots given to the Gülen Movement, which was once an ally of Erdoğan but has been condemned as a “coup plotter” by government circles since major graft probes targeting ministers were launched last December.

The government should stop losing time and start dealing with the real issues, even though they may not bring in votes.