Donald Trump has announced that the Daesh terror organisation has been destroyed as a paramilitary unit and pseudo-state. As such, there is no longer an excuse for the international community to ignore the dangers of the PKK and its regional affiliates. Since the late 1970s, the PKK has claimed 40,000 innocent lives and is today increasingly active in northern Iraq, northern Syria and parts of north-west Iran (in the form of PKK affiliate PJAK).
When it comes to Syria in particular, the YPG/PKK remains in control of vast swaths of legally defined Syrian territory and worryingly, both local people under YPG/PKK occupation and Turks living near to the Syrian border are in danger of being victims of future atrocities at the hand of a deeply dangerous terror group.
For years, the YPG’s ethnic and cultural cleansing of northern Syria has been well documented but largely ignored by every major state other than Turkey. The primary reason for this is due to the fact that in spite of listing the PKK as a terror group, the United States has armed and cooperated with YPG terrorists in the fight against Daesh. But while the world celebrates the effective end of Daesh, for the people of northern Syria, life has scarcely improved as one group of terrorists has simply moved in where another once ruled.
Unlike Turkey which does not rank terror organisations but remains committed to fighting all terror groups without fear or favour, the United States has long proffered a false narrative which claims that the YPG/PKK is the lesser of two evils when contrasted with Daesh. Forgetting the fact that such a sentiment is an insult to the memory of 40,000 victims of PKK terrorism, now that Daesh is no more by Washington’s own assessment, it is time for the United States to engage in serious discussions with its NATO partner Turkey about how to return northern Syria to its rightful owners in a manner that guarantees the absence of any terrorists from the region.
Turkey has vowed to neutralise YPG/PKK terrorists east of the River Euphrates in northern Syria but contrary to rumour, Turkey has no intention of being a permanent force in Syria. First of all, Turkey does not want nor need to incur the expense of having to permanently patrol a neighbouring country. Secondly, as a member of the Nursultan trio (formerly the Astana trio) that has pledged to respect Syria’s territorial unity, Turkey has made a clear commitment to work with responsible powers in order to assure Syria’s transition to peace, stability and revitalisation.
However, this cannot happen if the YPG/PKK continues to dream of carving out Syrian territory in order to form a rogue terror statelet. This twisted dream of the PKK is something that every government in the world ought to condemn.
The clear and present danger of a PKK element in post-Daesh Syria presents a very real problem for the Syrian people and for the international community. Because of this, whilst Russia, the US and Iran have very different perspectives on what Syria should look like in the future, all of these powers with vested interests in the Syrian peace process should unite with Turkey to condemn the PKK and work out concrete action steps to neutralise the group’s branches that have polluted Syrian soil for far too long.