Turkish Daily News
September 29, 2006 Friday


Abdullah Ocalan, whom Syria refused to hand over to Turkey, claiming
he didn't live there, was deported from the country after the
decisive ultimatum of the Turkish Armed Forces. Thus, a phase came to
an end in the struggle against Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK)
terrorism that had lasted for almost 19 years. While Salman Zirqi,
who was put in charge of Ocalan by Al Muhabarat, the Syrian
Intelligence Service, helped him out of Syria to new destinations
where he would find an equal amount of help and support, the chief
terrorist was dreaming of new beginnings. This was understandable as
PKK terrorism had cost Turkey tens of thousands of casualties and
billions of dollars. It could easily be said that Syria, which was
supported by the Soviet Union in the pre-1990 era; Greece, which is
still hallucinating about revenging its defeat in Cyprus in 1974;
Iran, which does not want a strong, democratic and secular Turkey in
the region; and the post-1990 Armenia and the pre-1990 Bulgaria as
well as prominent EU countries have extended their support in varying
degrees to the PKK throughout the period in which this ruthless
terrorist organization has sought power and recognition.

Additionally, the United States, subsequent to the launch of the
Combined Task Force -- Poised Hammer, and finally Israel, within its
search to somehow make a use for the Kurds following the second Gulf
war, have provided some support to the PKK. At this point, it should
be emphasized that alongside the United States, Russia, as another
global power, has also supported and sheltered PKK terrorism at
different times.

Soviet Union as global force and PKK:

The Syrian strategy of systematically supporting the PKK is
undoubtedly in accordance with Syria's historical national designs.
Within the illusion of a Greater Syria, the acquisition of Hatay has
always been a dream. To attain this goal, first Turkey was to be
weakened, and to weaken Turkey they would trigger internal
disruptions. Therefore, the harsh reality that the PKK terrorists
received training in the camps in Syria and Lebanon and were
transported from there to the Turkish border in the very vehicles of
the Syrian Army and Al Muhabarat should be understood as an extension
of this historical strategy of Syria. When Syria, whose military
inventory always looks very impressive on paper, was pursuing such a
strategy against Turkey, did it rely on its thousands of tanks,
artillery and hundreds of warplanes or on the Arab world, which
undeniably failed to support the Syrians during their wars against
Israel? For the pre-1990 era the answer to this question should be
"no." Firstly, it was obvious that the Syrian Army would be no match
against the much stronger and very well-disciplined Turkish Army,
which was well equipped -- according to NATO standards -- to
challenge the Soviet Army. Secondly, considering past events, Syria
could not rely on the other Arab states, either. In this case, Syria
could have relied only on powers other than the United States and
NATO, which were evidently the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact
countries. Syria expected that Turkish interference with Syria would
have resulted in the harsh retaliation of the Soviet Union. In other
words, the global and military force behind Syria, which was one of
the two prominent patrons of the PKK (the other was evidently our
neighbor Greece), was the Soviet Union.

The profit to be gained by the Soviet Union from the intensification
of PKK terror and even the disintegration of Turkey was not to be
underestimated. After all, a NATO member would have disintegrated and
thus the Soviet Union would have easily been able to access the
Mediterranean, the Middle East and, more importantly, the oil
resources in the region. In fact, it should be remembered here that
Bulgaria too played a certain role in the enhancement of the PKK's
terrorist power. Given that such involvement of Bulgaria in the issue
was encouraged by the Soviet Union, the Soviet support provided to
the PKK in the pre-1990 era became more visible. It is clear today
that the Russian Federation, being the successor of the Soviet Union,
has inherited Soviet methods of foreign policy and thus is continuing
to handle the PKK similar to how the Soviets handled the group. This
time, however, parallels have been drawn between PKK terrorism and
the Chechen movement.

Focusing on the post-1990 era and elaborating on how Syria remained
in support of the PKK until 1998, even after the dissolution of the
Soviet Union, we arrive at a critical point. Syria did not take into
account the fact that it was not in a position to compete,
militarily, economically or politically, with Turkey, especially
having lost the empowering support of the Soviet Union with the
collapse of this giant empire. Furthermore, Syrian military assets,
which looked impressive on paper, had become outmoded and thrown on
the scrap heap over the course of time.

On the matter of the PKK, one can not help but wonder about the
answers to the following questions: If Syria was to be pacified
easily, why then did Turkey very sadly lose thousands of sons and
experience so much distress for years? Was it because of the
insensitive and almost anti-national policies of the maladroit
governments that ruled Turkey at the time? Were Turkey's passiveness
and indecisiveness a result of its miscalculation of the military and
political powers backing PKK terrorism? Why did Turkey wait eight
years until 1998? Why did not we force Greece, Armenia, the Greek
Cypriot administration and Iran, alongside Syria, to answer for their
support to the PKK? Was Turkey afraid that these states would form a
Holy Alliance and conspire against Turkey? Or was there a concealed
truth behind the global actors' support of these states?

What caused our setback then? Was it the U.S. deployment of the
"Combined Task Force -- Poised Hammer" north of the 36th parallel in
Iraq that began preparations for a Kurdish establishment in the
region? Was it because, in a state of euphoria, we were completely
mesmerized by our entry to the customs union? In reality, the
situation was no different than the Ottoman signature on the Treaty
of Baltalimani in 1838, which is today accepted as the beginning of
the decline of the Ottoman Empire. All these points must be examined
historically. The first point to be elaborated upon is that the close
relationship between the PKK and the Soviet Union was in the
pre-1990, era when Soviet Russia was one of the two global powers.
Unfortunately, contemporary Russia continued the same attitude
towards the PKK for some time. Some significant proof of this is as

Allegedly, there was a PKK-controlled training camp that was active
for many years and which made possible the ideological education of
the PKK's mountaineering staff in Yaroslavl, lying 250 kilometers
north of Moscow.

Materiel captured during Turkish military operations indicated that
some of the weapons, including surface-to-air missiles (SAM), were
Russian made.

The Duma, the lower house of the Russian Parliament, once attempted
to recognize the PKK, which is something we still remember

Ocalan, the leader of the PKK, went to Russia twice after leaving
Syria, and his efforts to take refuge in Russia are also still in our

* Ali Kulebi is acting president of TUSAM (National Security
Strategies Research Center). He can be contacted at [email protected]