Monday, February 9, 2009

U.S. Condemns PJAK

PHOTO from the New York Times

From TDZ:
The US Treasury has branded the Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan (PJAK), whose members fight against government forces in Iran’s Kurdish-populated areas, as a terrorist organization.

The group is a front for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has been fighting the Turkish government for 25 years, Stuart Levey, the US Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said on Wednesday.

“With today’s action, we are exposing PJAK’s terrorist ties to the PKK and supporting Turkey’s efforts to protect its citizens from attack,” Levey said.
The desgination means the freeze of all PJAK assets in the United States, and prohibits U.S. citizens from having any relations with the organization.

PJAK is basically the equivalent of the Iranian PKK, springing up after and swearing allegiance to PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan. PJAK shares the PKK's commitment to socialism and women's rights, as well as many of the group's resources and command structures. They, like the PKK, have sought safe haven in the Kurdish Regional Government of northern Iraq, and Turkey and Iran recently signed a joint security agreement addressing the dangers the PKK/PJAK pose to both countries (see Aug. 14 post). Like the PKK, not bent on territory-based solutions fixed on secession from Turkey or Iran, they do not necessarily support the creation of an independent Kurdistan; instead, PJAK claims to be fighting for minority rights and more autonomy from the Iranian state. However, the group does so violently, PKK commander Murat Karayilan telling the New York Times in fall 2007 that PJAK killed as many as 108 Iranian troops. However, whereas the United States condemns the PKK as a terrorist organization, there is ample evidence that the Bush Administration indirectly supported the group as a means to undermine Iranian security. The New Yorker's Sey Hersh reported in November 2006 that the United States and Israel were providing material assistance to PJAK. From Hersh:
The group has been conducting clandestine cross-border forays into Iran, I was told by a government consultant with close ties to the Pentagon civilian leadership, as “part of an effort to explore alternative means of applying pressure on Iran.” (The Pentagon has established covert relationships with Kurdish, Azeri, and Baluchi tribesmen, and has encouraged their efforts to undermine the regime’s authority in northern and southeastern Iran.) The government consultant said that Israel is giving the Kurdish group “equipment and training.” The group has also been given “a list of targets inside Iran of interest to the U.S.” (An Israeli government spokesman denied that Israel was involved.)
PJAK leader Rahman Haj-Ahmadi visited Washington in the same August in which Karayilan attributed the deaths of 108 Iranian soldiers to the group, and though he did not meet officially with U.S. officials, he told the Washington Times that he had made indirect contacts. As evinced by a recent Human Rights Watch report on Kurdish rights in Iran, Turkey and Iran have similarly repressive policies toward their respective Kurdish minorities.

The Treasury Dept. designation is welcome news both in regard to hopes for rapprochement with Iran, as well as sending the message that it is serious about combating PKK terrorism, even when committed under PJAK command. U.S. support for PJAK is well-known in Turkey, and has contributed to the common belief that the U.S. supports the PKK. Though U.S. intelligence support to the Turkish Armed Forces, especially during Turkish incursions into northern Iraq, have assuaged anti-American sentiment and helped put such rumors to rest, most Turks are still skeptical,


Bulent Murtezaoglu said...

Though U.S. intelligence support to the Turkish Armed Forces, especially during Turkish incursions into northern Iraq, have assuaged anti-American sentiment and helped put such rumors to rest, most Turks are still skeptical,

Actually, I've seen no evidence that it has had any effect at all. Especially during/after the Turkish incursion into N. Iraq last winter, the sentiment was decidedly anti-US because of what Robert Gates said/implied.

Anonymous said...

Bulent: Turkey will never be happy of America. Despite that fact that US allows them to enter and bomb Iraqi KURDISTAN (you cannot bring yourself to say Kurdistan, can you?) at will. The only time Turkey will be happy is when it dominates the whole world and make everyone say "How happy he is who says I am a Turk". Fascism has been encoded into the social fabric now...