Karayılan: We will have an active position in the Mosul operation

PKK Executive Council Member Murat Karayılan said Turkey didn’t want PKK to take part in the Mosul operation, but they won’t stand on the sidelines and watch.

Karayılan said that the Kurds have a fragmented approach towards the Mosul operation, and that this was a great risk. Murat Karayılan said they were in contact with “respective forces” and that there was basis for their participation in the operation.

Murat Karayılan said the operation in Mosul was launched with mistakes in the military sense and it didn’t aim to end ISIS, just to make them flee.

ANF spoke with PKK Executive Council Member Murat Karayılan in Medya Defense Zones and he answered our questions on the Mosul operation and the situation in the region.


The Mosul operation has officially been launched. What are your thoughts on the operation and the Kurds’ stance on it?

There is an apparent “war” on ISIS in our region. But in reality, the conflicts and clashes of the regional powers continue. The Mosul operation can be viewed in this sense as well. Mosul has an important place in history as well as the current day. And us Kurds should have been in unity in such a vital period of time. Both against the situation in the region and the Mosul operation, Kurds could have been acting in unity. For the Mosul operation, Kurds could have met with the Iraqi administration, other regional forces and the US and displayed a united stance. Now, there is discussion on who will be in control after Mosul’s liberation. The question of “How and by whom will Mosul be controlled” is on the agenda, as Mosul is a city of peoples, not just one people. In the past, when people spoke of Mosul they spoke of Kurds. The Kurdish issue was also called the “Mosul issue”. Mosul was an important center for Kurds. But then the demographics were changed.

But several folks live in the city today.

Yes, the current reality needs to be considered as well. Kurds, Arabs, Assyrians, Turkmens live here. If the situation had been handled with a perspective of the democratic nation, Kurds would have also benefited. But unfortunately there isn’t the desired level of unity among Kurds. Unity among Kurds is a necessity for both Mosul and our region.


So, in such an important period, why couldn’t the Kurds come together? What are the reasons for that?

This is a very broad subject, but it can be summarized. Whatever the problem is among the Kurdish politics, it can be solved through dialogue. Kurds must discuss and solve their own problems among themselves first. But right now, there is no dialogue or discussion. Everybody thinks of their own political interests, and as such, national interests are sidelined. Lack of dialogue is at the base of this problem. Look, today, forces impossible to bring together are coming together. But we as Kurds can’t, despite our fate being linked. It’s embarrassing to lean on the wings of the colonialist powers at this point. Whatever the problems and the circumstances are, we need to approach them through the national perspective. The Kurds need a common agenda. Because this is life and death.


What should the Kurds’ position be in Mosul?

Kurds must have a say in Mosul. Kurds must be present in the Mosul administration. For the security of our people in Shengal and Mosul, and all other peoples, the Assyrians, Kurds must have initiative here. A democratic administration involving all the peoples must be formed there. Kurds have an important opportunity in the region. To take advantage of this opportunity, first there should be a joint political strategy among Kurds. Second, Kurds must wave the flag of democracy and freedom, they should be able to lead the struggle for democracy in the region. Kurds don’t need to go under the wings of Erdoğan or Iran. This is wrong. No! Us Kurds must represent freedom and democracy. The Kurds can’t be involved in the sectarian wars of the region. Becoming a party in the sectarian war will harm the Kurds. We must prioritize our national interests, and be democratic and libertarian. Only in this way can we claim “Yes, we are here in this region”.


Turkey seems to be searching for something in the region. They say they “will be involved in the operation and will be at the table”. What do you think of this attempt by Turkey?

Turkey’s administration have taken some decisions after internally assessing the developments in the region. They said, “Turkey must either expand or contract”. Now they say “We are here in the region”. Erdoğan said “Turkey must expand”. They said, “For Turkey to expand, our army must go outside the borders and intervene”. As a requirement of this policy, they actualized the Jarablus invasion. They started the attacks on Rojava over these principles. Now they want to continue up to Bab and Raqqa. They want to lay siege to Rojava and all of Kurdistan. They are planning to enter Mosul and strengthen themselves there to become permanent. There are such threats from them against Kurds. But some Kurds consider even this normal and stand with them. This is very wrong.


The operation in Mosul has started. Isn’t it too late for the Kurds to get together and define a common stance?

No, it’s not too late. It is still possible to fix some things. It’s never too late to forego a mistake. This operation has started, but it’s not clear right now when and how it will be completed.


How long do you think the Mosul operation will take?

We assume it will take months. It’s not clear yet whether ISIS will resist in Mosul. If ISIS resists, it will take months. But the problems in the region are greater and deeper. We are hoping it won’t take long and the problems in the region will be solved as soon as possible. But this war will continue for some time. It’s not just about Mosul. Rojava, Syria, Raqqa are still out there. So, the issues in the region and the war will continue. Thus, it’s not too late for the Kurds to come together and create a joint policy.


There have been discussions on taking part in the operation within your movement as well. Where are you on this operation right now? It is also known that Turkey is actively trying to prevent you being there. What are the developments in this area?

First of all, the Turkish state’s position on this issue must be assessed. Turkey’s modus operandi includes tyranny and invasion. The Turkish state wants to intervene with the process in an unacceptable way right now. Turkey is employing racist and sectarian politics. Turkish state taking root in Mosul will be a dangerous situation for the Kurdish people and the Freedom Movement. Not only for Kurds, Turkey settling in Mosul will create risky situations for other peoples as well.


The Turkish side says they “will partake in the operation and be at the table”.

Yes, both Erdoğan and Binali Yıldırım have stated this clearly. What are they doing there? Their official borders are clear. So, would Turkey accept a neighboring country to come and say, “We will be at the table where Edirne will be divided up”? They wouldn’t. Turkey is racist on one hand and sectarian on the other. This policy of Turkey will cause a sectarian war. Yes, Turkey’s main goal is to stop the Kurdistan Freedom Struggle. But alongside that, they represent the sectarian conflict. There is a possibility that Iran and Baghdad will react strongly against this stance from Turkey, and that strengthens the preexisting foundation for a sectarian war. That is why I said us Kurds should not be a party in this. There is a danger in sectarian wars and we shouldn’t be involved. Not just for today, we must think of the decades to come.


Now, first, we are the movement that commenced the fight against ISIS and we are the ones that fight. Our movement is the first to take a stance against the ISIS invasion in this region, first to fight and first to have spilled blood. We have vengeance to exact yet. We want to avenge the genocide of Shengal. Kurdish women and girls are kept in Mosul like slaves. We have an ethical and national stance. But now, the forces saying they will do such-and-such in Mosul have different agendas. They are waging a war of allocation and interest.


Why does Turkey want to keep you from partaking in the operation?

The Turkish state says, “The more PKK fights ISIS, the more sympathy they gather, they will correct their image in the eyes of the world, people will favor and respect them. Thus they shouldn’t fight ISIS”. The Turkish state doesn’t want PKK to fight against ISIS, they are trying to prevent this. This is the brazen Turkish state. They acted with ISIS up to now. They are acting together still. The world can see this fact, and that is why they don’t want Turkey in the Mosul operation. The respective forces know this. Erdoğan makes a fuss, saying they want to fight. So why doesn’t the International Coalition tell them to come join the operation? Because they know of Turkey’s collaboration with ISIS. That is why they don’t say, “Oh well, come fight if you want it so much”. Nobody believes Erdoğan. Erdoğan is one of the people responsible for Mosul being handed over to ISIS. The mental source for Erdoğan and ISIS is the same. They feed off the same source. Pay attention to how Turkey intervenes whenever ISIS is in a bend. The same thing happened in Rojava as well. As soon as Manbij was cleared off ISIS, Turkey immediately attacked Jarablus. Why didn’t they do it before? ISIS has been there for two years, what, did they just think of it now?


Turkey started saying “We are here too!” as soon as they saw the Baghdad administration, the Coalition Forces and the Peshmerga forces preparing for the Mosul operation. Why do they want to take part in the Mosul operation, one wonders. Their intentions are very shady. As is spoken in some circles, their goal here is to protect ISIS. They did the same thing in Jarablus. They shaved off the ISIS gangs and settled them in Jarablus under the name “FSA”. If Turkey enters Mosul, the same will happen there. They are in collaboration with Nuceyfi. These are the people who handed Mosul over to ISIS. If Turkey enters Mosul through them, ISIS will change costumes and they will be protected under different names. So, Turkey wants to run to the aid of ISIS. Turkey wants to prevent the destruction of ISIS. They did the same thing for Al Nusra. When they saw the world didn’t accept Al Nusra, they changed their name and continued to help them. In short, Turkey’s intentions here are dangerous and doubtful. I believe the Iraqi administration and the US are aware of this.


Turkey wants to stand strong against the Kurdish Freedom Movement by positioning there. That is why they say they should join the operation and the PKK shouldn’t. But the international forces have stopped Turkey’s attempts and told them they won’t be taking part. But the opportunity for us to take part in the operation under the PKK name is not there yet either. So one could say they prevented both Turkey and us. But we are there already, we are at war. The other, is coming from far away and wants to join in. We have already fought against ISIS in Maxmur, Kirkuk and Shengal. But now, we don’t think telling us to stand back for Turkey’s sake is right. We will continue our fight against ISIS.


Have you received any official word on this? Have you been told, “Stay away from the operation due to Turkey”?

Nobody told us to stay away. But we have been told that Turkey is an obstacle. We have even been told that the KDP is an obstacle. This matter also came up during the agreement between the Iraqi administration and the KDP as well. This is an international matter. But the meetings continue still. Just yesterday (October 18), we had a meeting with the relevant forces.

Who did you meet with?

I don’t see the need to disclose who we meet with at this point. But our meetings on the Mosul operation continue, we want the public to know that.


So what will your stance be in this situation?

We are already at war against ISIS. This war of ours will continue. We want to fight even more against ISIS. I said this before, we didn’t start this war on anybody’s command, and we will not end it so. We have some projects. We are focusing on these projects. There are unliberated villages in Shengal area still. There are targets we need to destroy. We won’t stand and watch. We have efforts, we have projects, and we don’t need anybody’s permission to implement these projects. There are those who say PKK shouldn’t take part. Well, nobody has the right to say that.


It is being discussed whether we will take part in the operation or not. We continue our preparations. There already exists a base for our participation in the offensive. I would like to state that we will have an active position. We are considering the conditions and the situation, of course. We will continue our fight against the ISIS. The defeat of ISIS will also enable the downfall of the Erdoğan-led dictatorship in Turkey.


How do you evaluate the military strategy of the Mosul operation?

True, everyone assesses the political aspect of the Mosul operation but not its military tactics and strategy. The operation has some deficiencies. It is Êzidî Kurds that suffered ISIS atrocity the most but no way has been paved for the participation of Shengal forces in the offensive. No front has been opened from that side.

I find the military aspect of the Mosul operation plan deficient and wrong. The battle waged against ISIS so far has achieved success through the tactics of siege which should have been taken as basis in the Mosul operation as well in order to cut off the forces in Mosul from outside. ISIS should have been destroyed after an encirclement of Mosul. However, the plan put into practice at the moment is not based on destroying ISIS but letting it flee. The goal is not to end ISIS completely. This is a plan grounded on driving ISIS out of Mosul.

What kind of a plan do you think was needed?

Mosul and Raqqa should have been encircled simultaneously. I assess the postponement of the Raqqa operation as a strategic mistake. This is a major fault in terms of military strategy. If Mosul and Raqqa had been encircled simultaneously, it could have been a bit difficult but ISIS could have been destroyed in a short while. The current plan, however, does not focus on destroying ISIS. It is not clear how much ISIS will resist there but it will apparently attack to some extent, detonate bombs and head towards Syria once it sees itself to be in desperate straits. It is not a true plan to drive ISIS out of Mosul and make it head towards Raqqa and Rojava. ISIS has been encircled from three sides at the moment but the fourth side, the Shengal front, is open. ISIS will thus be able to cross into Syria, to Deyra Zor and Shaddadi side, over southern Shengal. In military strategy, one side is left open in order for the enemy to not resist to the end. A small way is left open for their escape. Yet, the way left open in Mosul is not a small one, it is an area of 70 kms. This situation will constitute a burden on Syria and Rojava. This will be a dangerous case for Shengal and Rojava. In short, it is not a whole plan to get rid of ISIS in Mosul but to make it turn its steps towards Rojava and Shengal.

On the other hand, the battle has not begun yet. It is not enough to liberate a few villages. I commemorate the martyred peshmergas but the operation must be based on tactics, not propaganda. The Mosul battle will essentially begin in the city center.