Take Turkey's Kurdish group off the US terror list for good

Take Turkey's Kurdish group off the US terror list for good
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A Belgian appeals court on Thursday upheld a lower court ruling tossing out an 11-year old complaint against a number of Kurdish politicians because of their alleged ties to the Kurdish Workers Party, the PKK.

The 2006 complaint, filed at the behest of the Turkish government, sought to jail 36 Kurdish politicians, many of them living as political exiles in Belgium, under Belgium’s counter-terrorism laws.

A lower court tossed out the case last November, but the Belgian state prosecutor lodged an appeal following vigorous protests from the Turkish government, which leaks bullets whenever someone mentions Kurds.

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The court found that the “PKK is an not a terrorist organisation but a party in a non-international armed conflict."

This is a huge finding for Kurdish groups not just in Turkey but all around the Middle East, given the fact that Turkey has consistently sought to brand just about every successful Kurdish organization, with the exception of the Kurdish Democratic Party of Iraq, as a “branch” or component of the PKK.

In a statement released after the ruling was announced, the pan-Kurdish Kurdish National Congress (KNK) called the decision a “huge blow to the smear tactics of the Turkish state.” They are right.

But, setting aside the Turkish regime’s claim that the West should eschew support Kurdish fighters, the ruling goes to the heart of Turkey’s domestic civil war, its decades-long armed conflict to effectively eradicate its own Kurdish population — culturally, by previously outlawing the use of the Kurdish language, and militarily, through a war against a civilian population.

The Turks like to refer to their own Kurds as “mountain Turks,” an absurd notion, and they want us to believe that all of the violence should be laid at the feet of the PKK.

The Belgian Appeals Court has given the lie to these claims. Its decision has important ramifications for the United States, but also for Israel.

Just one day before the decision was announced, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a case of extraordinarily bad timing, tweeted out that Israel “rejects the PKK and considers it a terrorist organization, as opposed to Turkey, which supports the terror org. Hamas.”

Netanyahu went on to say that Israel “supports the legitimate rights of the Kurdish people to attain a state of its own.”

Netanyahu’s fear, of course, is that the Belgians and the Europeans will go soft again on Hamas, and consider them to be “freedom fighters” or perhaps “belligerent parties in an armed conflict,” as the court just found in the case of the PKK.

In 2014, the European court removed Hamas from the EU’s list of terrorist organizations, only to have their decision reversed this July, so Netanyahu’s concern is understandable. And the EU has never acknowledged Hezbollah’s so-called “political wing” as a terrorist group, despite its involvement in countless international terrorist acts, including the bombing of the U.S. embassy in Lebanon 1983 and the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992, in addition to its 2006 war on Israel and active involvement in the Syrian civil war.

But the PKK is fundamentally different, and its conflict with Turkey is fundamentally different from the Hamas stated goal of annihilating the state of Israel and from Hezbollah’s role as an armed proxy of the Islamic state of Iran.

The PKK has been fighting a defensive war to prevent the extermination of Kurdish culture in Turkey. Both Hamas and Hezbollah have been terrorist organizations since birth, and have massacred hundreds of innocent civilians in deliberate terrorist attacks with no military purpose.

The Trump administration should follow the lead of the Belgian court and remove the PKK from the State Department’s list of international terrorist organizations.

Would this create havoc in our relations with Turkey? You bet. But the current path of our relationship with Ankara is anything but sunny.

President Erdogan is little more than an Islamist mafia don, who has been caught by Turkish media instructing his own son to hide massive sums of cash at his house. When an apparent crony, Reza Zarrab, was arrested by U.S. authorities on money-laundering charges, Erdogan sought to convince Trump to have the charges dropped.

Erdogan has consistently prevented the U.S. use of our own airbase at Incirlik for missions in Iraq and in Syria, and earlier this year the Turkish military attacked America’s Kurdish allies in northern Syria, on allegations they were the part of the PKK.

Whenever he finds it convenient, Erdogan blackmails Europe by threatening to unleash the floodgates of economic migrants as he did at the outset of the Syrian civil war. He is cozying up to Russia, and long ago forged an alliance of convenience with Iran to undermine U.S. influence in Iraq and Syria and to increase pressure on the Kurds.

Now is a good time to drop the pretense. The United States has a long-term strategic interest in the emergence of an independent, secular Kurdish state in the Middle East as the best ally against two resolute foes: the Islamic state of Iran, and Islamist Turkey.

Removing the PKK from the terrorism list is a good place to start.

Kenneth R. Timmerman was the 2012 Republican Congressional nominee for MD-8 and is the author of "Deception: The Making of the YouTube Video Hillary & Obama Blamed for Benghazi," published by Post Hill Press.