McClatchy reports: The role of Syrian Kurds in the U.S.-led fight against the Islamic State has prompted calls for the removal of an affiliated Kurdish guerrilla group from the U.S. blacklist, bringing fresh scrutiny to a terrorist-designation process that some critics call arbitrary and outdated.
So far, the U.S. government’s response to the fighters of the Kurdish Workers Party, the PKK, could be summed up as: Thanks for the help, but you’re staying on the list.
Shedding a U.S. foreign terrorist designation is a long and complicated undertaking – a feat accomplished by just a handful of the dozens of groups that have landed on the list since its inception in 1997. A designation means that a group has earned the dubious label – and economic sanctions – of being named a “tier-one” foreign terrorist organization. Tier-two members are banned from entry to the United States; tier-three groups are undesignated but closely monitored.
Several organizations have languished on the State Department’s tier-one list even though they’re essentially defunct, with their leaders killed, jailed or engaged in peace talks with the governments they once attacked. Others on the 59-member list have been weakened but are still considered threatening. And, of course, there are the active, high-profile groups that in American minds are synonymous with terrorism: the Islamic State, al Qaida and Hezbollah, for example.
Those three, as well as the PKK, are among a half-dozen U.S.-designated groups now involved in the conflict over the Islamic State’s cross-border fiefdom. The battle is stirring up an unprecedented soup of militants, with five tier-one terrorist groups – both Sunni and Shiite Muslim – on the same side as the United States against the Islamic State, itself a designee. The Obama administration’s unsavory de facto partners against the Islamic State include the Lebanese militants of Hezbollah and the Nusra Front, the Syrian branch of al Qaida. [Continue reading…]
Since the Nusra Front was also targeted in the series of cruise missile strikes that marked the expansion into Syria of the U.S. war on ISIS, I think both they and the administration would dispute this claim that they have become de facto partners.