In today’s blog I will step away from societal issues and focus in on the military/political spectrums within the Middle East.
I have always had a fascination with the art of guerrilla warfare. Guerrilla warfare has been a form of war for centuries past. However, it only got its name in the 18th century. Guerrilla warfare is considered to be a series of ambushes or small attacks against the opposition, after the attack the fighters retreat sorta like a hit-and-run. This type of warfare is primarily used by a small militias against a much bigger agent. The tactic, in theory, yields minimal causalities to the smaller agent and yields devastating results against the larger unit.
I assume the Middle East and North African region has been using guerrilla warfare for centuries. However, it gained traction in the region during World War I. Recalling what I read in Scott Anderson’s Lawrence in Arabia T.E. Lawrence, the infamously known Brit for his involvement in the Middle East during WWI, taught these tactics to Semitic tribes. Lawrence, taught guerrilla warfare in order to destroy the Ottoman Empire and Axis’ railway system, which, was being used to transport weapons and men. Historically, in the Arab world, this rebellion is considered to be the Arab Revolt. Lawrence and the Semitic tribe’s use guerrilla warfare eventually destroyed the railway system and relieved the Arab’s from the Ottoman Empire’s autonomy over the region. The Ottoman Empire’s loss of the Arab world signaled the end of the Aging Relic’s empire.
Even though the Ottoman Empire’s presence left the region, Lawrence’s teachings of guerrilla warfare maintained a stronghold. Guerrilla warfare is used in some weight by many small militias, even some large militias throughout the region.
Kuridish militias use guerrilla warfare tactics predominately due to their small size and that their use of force is against much larger armies. One Kurdish militia that actively and consistently uses guerrilla warfare is Turkey Kurd’s Workers Party of Kurdistan (PKK).
In the article “Between Guerrilla Warfare and Political Murder” the history of the PKK and the consequences it has given way to are discussed below.
The PKK was formed in 1978 by young college activist, the leader being a man named Abdullah Ocalan. Since the PKK conception the group their foundation has been based on violence, usually in the form of guerrilla warfare. PKK commits acts of violence against states, primarily Turkey, and also rival Kurdish organizations. The PKK has operations throughout Europe, Turkey and Northern Iraq, and none of their locations in these regions are distinct.
The PKK’s use of guerrilla warfare causes many issues for the Kurdish population, both civilian wise and for other Kurdish organizations. Firstly, Turkey has tended to use the PKK’s violence as a justification for implementing strict laws on Kurd’s practice of their culture. In turn this has caused a force assimilation for Kurds living in Turkey and also allowed Turkey to justify their incidents of human right offenses. Secondly, this has given other Kurdish organizations a bad reputation internationally. This can be seen by the United States’ present hesitation of giving military aid to Kurdish organizations, not associated with the PKK, in the recent ISIS crisis plaguing Syria and Iraq. Thirdly, it has allowed the Kurdish struggle, civilian wise, to be largely ignored by international organizations. For example, Turkey and Iraq has previously implemented airstrikes on Kurdish villages in hopes of killing PKK members, many of the attacks have been largely ignored by international spectators. And Fourthly, the PKK is always blamed by Turkey and European nations for unsolved crimes, such as the assassination of Sweden’s prime minister, Olaf Palme, in which the Swedish government lacks significant evidence and reasoning to the accusation.
Guerrilla warfare can be a useful tactic when trying to defeat a large military agent, however, it can also be self-defeating if their is no staunch political agenda behind it, as in the PKK’s case. One could even go as far to conclude that the PKK has been a leading cause to the ISIS militants stronghold in the Kurdish region. Evidence to this conclusion could be the overall ignorance of Kurdistan, and the lack of alliances any Kurdish organization has obtained. One could retort that the United States gives support and aid to Iraqi Kurdish organizations, but that’s only due to their help in the defeat of Sadam Hussein. One could also say that by aiding one Kurdish militia, the US aids all (excluding the PKK because the PKK attacks rival Kurdish militias). This may be true but because Turkey tends to associate all Kurdish militias with the PKK they haven’t allowed Iraqi Kurds to cross their border to give Syrian Kurd’s the military support.
Hence, guerrilla warfare is a double edged sword. However, I believe that if guerrilla warfare is used by Kurdish organizations with the same political agenda and if they are able to unite, the Kurds could really accomplish their political goals.