Syrian forces detained 400 people last month in connection with the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). Meanwhile Syria, Turkey and Iran have seemingly stepped up their coordinated response to the militant group. In an e-mail interview, Aliza Marcus, a writer based in Washington, and the author of "Blood and Belief," a book on the PKK, explains Syria's,Turkey's, and Iran's fight against the militant group.
WPR: Historically, what has been the level of cooperation between Turkey, Syria and Iran in fighting Iraq-based PKK and PJAK militants?
Aliza Marcus: Turkey, Iran and Syria historically have been at odds when it comes to fighting Kurdish guerrillas. Syria harbored PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan for almost two decades, from about 1979 through 1998, using him and his group as a way to pressure Turkey on water and other contested issues. Iran, meanwhile, struck a sort of side deal with the PKK in the late 1980s, which allowed rebels to cross Iranian territory to reach Turkey, in exchange for intelligence information about Turkish troop movements. The political dynamic shifted when Ocalan was kicked out of Syria late in 1998 and subsequently captured by Turkey. Syria slowly rounded up the remnants of the PKK (although most of the group's forces had long since shifted to Iraqi Kurdistan) and began building close ties to Turkey. Iran also cut ties to the PKK. In any case, after Ocalan's capture, the PKK suspended its rebel war, making it of little use to anybody in the region. For Iran, especially, the election in 2002 of the Islamist-leaning Recep Tayyip Erdogan helped cement relations and ensure that the PKK remained off-limits.