[email protected]

July 25, 2012, Wednesday

What is emerging out of Syria: a Kurdish state or a PKK state?

As the developments rapidly unfold in Syria, the Turkish media is in a panic. Some suggest that what is emerging in Syria is a Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) state, where the PKK controls every aspect of the newly emerging autonomous region, whereas some influential liberals try to portray the developments as a Kurdish autonomous region.

In reality, a PKK state is in fact emerging from Syria. The PKK has been working toward this end for a year.

A year ago an interesting analysis appeared from a pro-PKK writer and I brought it to your attention on Oct. 5, 2011. (

In order to understand what is going on in Syria, one needs to look at what PKK spokesman Yusuf Ziyad outlined a year ago:

 “Turkey’s decision to support American plans in the Middle East have deeply disturbed Iran. Because there is no neighboring state for Iran to build an alliance with, Iran will build alliances with non-state actors. It is a well-known fact that Iran has had alliances with Hezbollah, Ansar Al-Sunnah, Hamas, etc. The [Justice and Development Party] AKP government has pulled Hamas away from Iran’s influence. As an outcome of an arrangement between Turkey and Hamas, the organization shut down its offices in Damascus.”

Ziyad suggests: “At this stage, the best option for Iran is to build a Shiite and Kurdish alliance [by a Shiite-Kurd axis the author implies an Iran-PKK alliance]. As we look at the interests of both the Kurds and the Shiites, there is ground to build such an alliance. Turkey’s moderate Islamic model is a direct challenge to the Iranian model of Islam. Promoting the Turkish model of Islam across the Arab world is an American project.”

Ziyad deepens his analysis by adding Syria to the equation. “The Assad regime in Syria is critical for Iran. After the fall of the Assad regime, Iran would not be able to convince the Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq to side with Iran. Turkey’s attempt to remove the Assad regime, at the end would be against Iran’s and the Kurds’ interests in the region. The only way to end this international conspiracy against Iran and Syria would be to build an alliance with the Kurds [meaning the PKK]. With such alliance, Iran would have a new area of operations from Lebanon to Afghanistan; this would become a breathing ground for Iran.”

Ziyad suggests: “The main pillars of such an alliance would be Iran and the PKK. Given the fact that the PKK is active in all parts of Kurdistan, if Iran and the PKK reach an agreement, it means all of Kurdistan will have become a part of this alliance.” With such alliance, the PKK hopes to gain regional recognition from Iran. Ziyad argues, “As a precondition of such an agreement, Iran should recognize the status of Kurds in the region.”

A year after this analysis appeared in the PKK media, the developments indicate that the analysis was right. By controlling Syria’s Kurdish region, the PKK now have an opportunity for international recognition. A few months later, depending on Iran’s representatives in the region, Iran will have to recognize the de facto Kurdish autonomous region in Syria.

By recognizing the PKK-controlled territory in Syria, Iran will have an opportunity to limit the influence of Massoud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), over Syrian Kurds. Given the nature of Barzani’s engagement with US policies in the region, Iran would find a PKK-controlled Syrian region would be an alternative to American policies in the region.

The Democratic Society Congress (DTK) has called on the international community to recognize the autonomous region in Syria. This signals that the pro-PKK networks around the world will work hard to get international recognition. One of the first doors to knock on belongs to Iran. Iran would quickly recognize the regional Kurdish autonomy in Syria.

Barzani, by bringing the Kurdish opposition and the PKK network in Syria together, is trying to steal the PKK’s influence over Syrian Kurds. However, Barzani has a small chance of removing the PKK’s influence. By establishing a territorial base, the PKK has become an actor who can negotiate with Barzani about having permanent bases in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Given that Barzani was trying to relegate the PKK to a limited territory in Iraqi Kurdistan, now the PKK has a trump card to use against him. It seems that Barzani will have no option other than to negotiate with the PKK in order to exert influence over the Syrian Kurds.

It is likely that the PKK also needs to negotiate with Barzani until it deepens its roots in Syria. However, in the long run it is unlikely the PKK will share its power with Barzani in Syria. Therefore it is safe to suggest that what is emerging from Syria is a PKK autonomous region.

Needless to say, the biggest loser in this quarrel is Turkey…

Previous articles of the columnist