What is the difference between the PKK, PYD, YPG, KRG, KDP, and the Peshmerga? FAQ
By Ralph Lengler
Adding some bits and pieces to‘s excellent answer,
The Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq = KRG is the family business of the Barzani Clan, even though elections are generally considered free and fair. President is Massoud Barzani, Prime Minister is Nechervan Barzani while the security chief is Masrour Barzani. The Barzanis are Iranian Kurds.
Iranians are cultured people and born politicians, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Massoud Barzani is one of the most gifted politicians in the region. Barzani is also a very cruel man, e.g. he has sacrificed the Yazidis to be slaughtered by the Islamic State in order to force Obama’s hand to intervene against ISIS – when that didn’t work he withdrew the Peshmerga from oil fields run by U.S. oil companies (which did force Obama’s hand).
Turkish Kurds are born fighters, neither cultured nor born politicians, while the Iraqi Kurds are somewhere in between the two.
The Partiya Karkerên Kurdistanê (PKK) with its military wing Hêzên Parastina Gel (HPG) operated from 1978 – 1999 from Syria and afterwards from the Qandil-Mountains in the PUK-part of the KRG.
The Barzanis and the PKK profoundly hate each other.
The Yekîneyên Parastina Gel (YPG) is the military arm of the Partiya Yekîtiya Demokrat (PYD), the Syrian affiliate of the PKK. Most of the YPG commanders and fighters are Qandil-Kurds, i.e. PKK.
When the Islamic State overran Syria and Iraq, the PKK saw its chance for a make-over: from terrorists (fighting against Turkey) to freedom fighters (fighting the Islamic State) by protecting the oil fields of U.S. oil majors in the Kirkuk area as well as defending Kobanê or resupplying the Yezidis on Mount Sinjar.
30+ years of insurgency warfare has battle-hardened the PKK into the best fighting-force of the Middle East. They are feared by Islamic State fighters as they have won every single battle against them while all other armed forces are happy if they can stand their ground.
Because Turkey is repressing all minorities, the PKK and its Syrian affiliate sees itself as not only a defender of Kurds, but all repressed people. As you can see in the above, the military wing of the PKK the HPG is part of the Kurdish-Syrian forces. But the YPG is also allied with Yezidis, Armenian & Assyrian Christians, Alewites, and secular Arabs which cannot be said about the Barzani-Kurds. Because of all this broad front of allies, the Syrian Kurds have the highest chance in winning the war in Syria.
Because of their historical ties with the Assad regime, the PKK/YPG has a good working relationship with Assad even though they don’t like each other.