ISIS, PKK and the uses of terrorism

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Although acting with different motivations, ISIS and the PKK both employ similar tactics and goals to maintain their presence in the region, carrying out terrorist attacks

A series of terrorist attacks claimed close to 40 lives this week in Turkey. The two terrorist organizations, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and the PKK, have chosen to target Turkish citizens and security forces in separate attacks. Though acting with different motivations, the two share similar tactics and goals. On Friday, Turkey acted to counter these growing security risks at home and across the border.

Despite major democratic gains, the political representation of Kurdish voters in the Turkish Parliament, economic development and PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan's calls for disarmament, the PKK refuses to disarm. Instead, it continues armed struggle and uses terrorist tactics to maintain its presence and relevance. The PKK fears that a fully democratic and transparent process will make it an irrelevant entity.

The PKK seeks political space through terrorism - a plan that no democratic country in the world will ever accept. That's why its political wing, the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), is trying but, needless to say, failing to justify the PKK's politics of terrorism. This is also the reason why HDP figures, while condemning the ISIS attack in Suruç, which claimed 32 lives, do not say anything regarding the PKK's terror attacks that killed one soldier and three police officers. They condemn the deaths without making any reference to the PKK despite the fact that the PKK has claimed responsibility for them.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the PKK is manipulating the "solution process" to its advantage. It opposes its primary goals, which are the expansion of rights for all citizens including the Kurds, the disarmament of the PKK and ending all forms of terrorism. It imposes its own ideological and political demands as if they are the legitimate demands of the Kurdish people.

Instead, the PKK and its political operatives are engaged in demonizing President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime Minsiter Ahmet Davutoğlu, the very political actors who can move the process forward. By attacking Erdoğan, the PKK-HDP camp is only undermining whatever is left of the solution process. This also sends the HDP's claim to be an all-Turkey party down the drain.

On the Syria front, the PKK is using the war in that country and the international fight against ISIS as a pretext to claim political and military space. It is mobilizing its military and political forces to incite a new wave of political confrontation and violence. The PKK's calculation might be to make short-term gains from increased tension but this policy is certain to backfire in Syria and elsewhere because you cannot defeat one terrorist organization with another one. The Democratic Union Party (PYD), the PKK's Syria wing, has already begun causing outrage among Syrian Kurds, Arabs and Turkmens for its policies of oppression, forced migration and intimidation.

The Assad regime remains the ultimate source of this new wave of instability and terrorism. This criminal regime has already killed more than 300,000 people, driven millions from their homes and turned Syria into a breeding ground for warlords and terrorist groups. The longer the Syrian regime stays in power, the more time and space ISIS will find in the Syrian territories to support its criminal war in the Middle East and around the world.

The failure of the international community to remove the Assad regime has made the Turkish-Syrian border a major security threat for Turkey. The recent events confirm once again the importance of Turkey's call for creating a safe zone along the Turkish-Syrian border with air cover and protection for Free Syrian Army (FSA) and other moderate opposition forces fighting against the Assad regime on the one hand, and ISIS on the other. All other options, flawed by a short-sided perspective and lack of political leadership, have made ISIS a more potent and dangerous terrorist force. The anti-ISIS coalition will have to do more to stop the threat of ISIS.

It was only a matter of time before Turkey confronted ISIS militarily along its border. This happened this week. The attack by ISIS terrorists that killed one Turkish soldier might be an isolated incident or part of an organized plan. Regardless, Turkey has responded with force and determination and will continue to do so. The immediate goal is to clear Turkish-Syrian border from ISIS and other security threats. Securing the border is critical for both Turkey and for the moderate Syrian opposition including the FSA. It will also help the Syrian refugees fleeing ISIS's barbarism and the barrel bombs and the militia violence of the Assad regime.

Those who spread the propaganda that Turkey is not doing enough against ISIS and those who unashamedly claim that Turkey supports ISIS have proven to be wrong once again. Before this week's operations, Turkey has already taken stern measures. Over the last seven months, Turkey has detained more than 500 ISIS-related individuals and arrested about 100 of them. In addition, more than 1,600 foreign citizens, suspected of ISIS-related activities, have been expelled and 15,000 foreign individuals have been suspended from entering Turkey. As Turkish officials have stated before, stopping the flow of foreign terrorists into Syria is not Turkey's problem alone; it is the collective responsibility of the international community. Needless to say, the countries from which these terrorists come have to do their homework.

As this week's events show, ISIS and the PKK seek political gains through violence and terrorism. They manipulate political developments to make military gains. No democracy can allow that. Terrorism must be opposed in all of its forms whether it is ISIS or PKK terrorism.

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