Iraqi Peshmerga (fighters) prepare for
Turkish incursion in November 2007.
(Iraqi Peshmerga, U.S. allied fighters,
sought to protect Kurdish civilians
in any crossfire between Turkey
and the PKK.) (Getty Images/
In a nice demonstration of realpolitik by the US, Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq are currently serving as a terrorist group (when fighting Turkey) and as supported 'asset' when they are fighting Iran, as they are presently along the Iranian border.
The Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK) has been at low level war with Turkey for a quarter of a century. Kurds are an ethnic and linguistic minority who live in Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria, and signs of their autonomous identity are generally suppressed in these countries. Turkey designates the PKK a terrorist group, so does the United States. Turkish wrangling after the fall of the Hussein regime ensured the Iraq also designates the group as terrorist.
According to news reports, Turkeyis continuing attacks against Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq. They were "were reportedly trying to cross the border into Turkey on Wednesday." Turkey has been attacking suspected hideouts of members of the PKK, the Kurdistan Workers' Party, since December 2007. The current attack follows a ground operation aimed at PKK bases in northern Iraq in February. Both sides declared a version of victory. Bozam Tekim, a PKK leader, told news sources that the Turkish army had been taught a severe lesson, and Turkey made the same claim to have damaged the PKK.
In the meantime, the Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan (PEJAK, according to its Kurdish acronym), a second group that grew out of the PKK, has been exchanging fire with Iran over the Iran-Iraq border. This group, as well as others, receives unofficial US support for its efforts. According to a PEJAK founder cited in the Los Angeles Times, the US brings "foodstuffs, economic assistance, medical supplies and Russian military equipment, some of it funneled through nonprfit groups." The relationship is kept unofficial to preserve relations with Turkey.
This apparent contradiction, which extends to US support for other groups designated as terrorist groups who oppose Iran, is not perceived as particularly problematic by analysts. Consistency with respect to Kurdish political aims is not of particular value in US foreign policy. There is little that stands in the way of historical irony either, as the US brings food and weapons to the Marxist rebel group.