There are many similarities between the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the Marxist/Leninists that emerged in the late 1970s, and Hezbollah in Lebanon that was established in the early 1980s. Both have an ideology they claim guides their paths and, most importantly, both were established at the intersections between national and regional levels.
This intersection was expressed by strong alliances with regional powers that turned into structural and constitutional elements in both parties. Kurds and the Palestinians live in more than one country, and some of the matters stretch beyond the limits of borders of sovereign nations.
These issues were found in the Syrian regime established by Hafez al-Assad, a regime that is best at receiving, employing and conducting itself like an excellent maestro. This regime is the master of all “cards” and the King of all “arenas.” What is the best “card” between these two, and what is the most welcoming “arena” between them, as they coincide with several countries and generate echoes heard all over the world?
With the help of Iran, the “alliances” are greater, but with the presence of Lebanon, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards can now train Hezbollah members in the Bekaa Valley, and the PKK can also be trained there.
However, this “alliance” has been dealt painful blows directed by an elder brother towards his younger associates every now and then. While the most painful blow was when Damascus delivered the PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan to the Turks in the late nineties, the “Fathallah barracks” shock in Beirut in 1987 was more than enough for Hezbollah to learn the lesson.
The lesson was: if the parties’ “national” issues contradict with the Syrian regime’s regional issues, the absolute priority is for the latter. Can you imagine the laughter of Syrian security officers like Ghazi Kanaan, Rustom Ghazali or Assef Shawkat when they hear about the unification of Kurdistan or the liberation of Jerusalem?
Thus, year after year, the issues that were supposed to be national ones were caught in the tangle of regional affairs and became used to that. Although these relationships turned the original ideological character of the two parties into absurdity and less believable, this character lasted because it did not harm the “alliance”; on the contrary, it helped it. Its persistent presence has created a peculiar ideology much bigger for both parties’ environments from which they originate.
This is now over. The Syrian Revolution has made it obvious how the two revolutionary movements are anti-revolution. The only serious issue is the survival of the Syrian regime and all shots fired by any of the two parties have targeted the demonstrators in Daraa, Homs or Aleppo.
However, this disclosure − even if only hypothetical – provides an opportunity to re-evaluate the following: how does a gradual withdrawal from the Syrian regime’s issues, which involves the blood of Syrians and people in the region, turn into issues that both parties claim to be implicated in? It is feared that it will be a wasted opportunity, not because of the lack of desire but for the lack of skills after all these years of “alliance” and their impacts − and after all the lost connection with the world, which were destroyed for the sake of this “alliance”.
(The writer is a columnist at the London-based al-Hayat, where
this article was published on August 8, 2012.)