Counter-Terrorism: Radical Kurds Gone Astray


October 17, 2012: Turkish separatist group PKK is threatening the French government with retaliation for arresting their European region leader Adem Uzun. The PKK is ignoring the fact that Uzun was caught in France while arranging to buy over a million dollars worth of anti-tank missiles. This threat would appear to be a dangerous move on the part of the PKK because the Kurdish communities in Europe are a major source of funding for the PKK. This is despite the fact that the PKK is outlawed (as a terrorist organization) in most European countries. The PKK tends to be left alone as long as they do not make trouble. That means no violence (especially against Turkey). Apparently the PKK considered gun-running a grey area but the French government did not agree. The PKK has told the French that all will be forgiven (and there will be no more arms smuggling in France) if Adem Uzun is not extradited to Turkey.

The threat was delivered by one faction of the PKK and may indicate some disorganization within the PKK leadership. It’s bad enough Uzum is in a French jail. If the Turks get hold of him it would be a major loss for the PKK. It gets worse if the French are offended by the PKK threat and come after the Kurdish separatists even more aggressively. Some senior PKK officials are already trying to do some damage control in that area.

Local terror groups like PKK (who have caused over 30,000 deaths in the last three decades) usually don’t go international. That spreads resources too thin and endangers support from exiles, as well as the sanctuary these exiles enjoy. But there’s always a problem with more radical factions going it alone and carrying out terrorist attacks. This often results in an internal struggle that tends to end up with the radical faction either being crushed or splitting into a new group.

There are the 24 million Kurds, who live as minorities in Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria. There are also fifteen million Baluchis, living as minorities in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran. The Kurds have been blocked from statehood for over 5,000 years by their more powerful neighbors (who now rule the nations they currently inhabit). The Turks, Iraqis, and Iranians are particularly resistant to giving up real estate and population to form a Kurdistan. Fortunately, the Kurds never embraced Islam in a big way and their separatist groups tend to be socialist, or simply nationalist. Thus the Kurds are allies of the West in the war on terror, not an enemy. But some separatist groups, like the PKK, are more concerned with statehood than in fighting Islamic terrorists. There are similar radical separatist groups in Iran and Syria and not many at all in Iraq, where the local Kurds have been autonomous for over two decades.





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