Turkey has put Iraq on edge with a bold campaign in Iraqi Kurdistan’s northern mountains where they have conducted airstrikes against the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party), a long time enemy of Turkey and Operation Olive Branch in Syria. Iraq has made it clear that it does not want any help from Turkey with the foreign ministry stating, “We are condemning continued attacks and border transgressions by Turkey. We are condemning Turkey’s airstrikes against villages of Soran district as they have resulted in the martyrdom of civilians. Such border transgressions will not serve relations between Turkey and Iraq.”
Turkish airstrikes that took place this past Thursday morning resulted in the deaths of 4 young males who were celebrating Newroz (Kurdish New Year) and had stayed overnight in the mountains. The PKK claimed that the men were indeed part members but ademently stated that no militant actions were being conducted and that they were unarmed. The men were identified as Shera Mahmud, Kaka Mustafa Warti, Mohammed Ismael Warti, and Darbaz Mohammed.
While Turkey has stated that they had merely “neutralized 9 PKK terrorists”, Iraq is affirming that the Foreign Ministry in no way condones the use of Iraq land for executing such operations. The neighboring nations of Iraq and Turkey have been put at odds over the event and the deployment of Turkish soldiers to Iraqs northern border in the past has already set a precedent. With the Turkish aggression in northern Syria towards the Kurdish Canton of Afrin, Iraq fears similar action against their own Kurdish region which houses the PKK headquarters in the mountains of Qandil.
Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has already reassured the public that they are prepared to take action against the PKK sites contained within Iraq, which would be an extension of Operation Olive Branch apparently. Iraqi parliament member and head of the security and defense committee, Hakim Zamli made Iraq’s position very clear saying, “If Iraq is serious about wanting to expel PKK fighters from the northern part of the country, it does not need Turkey at all and it is capable enough to do it itself.” He continued to contend that a “systematic and organized plot” was in the works by Turkey to breakdown security and good order in the Middle East, specifically around Turkish territory.
While Turkish officials have ostensibly claimed that Turkey has an agreement with Iraq for the allowance of joint operations against the PKK, Iraq’s foreign minister has clearly denied this. Hakim Zamli has informed the public that Iraqi Parliament’s security committee intends to hold a meeting very soon in an effort to reach a conclusion to Turkey’s aggression and discuss the allegations being made. He said, “The parliament does not have knowledge about any agreement between Ankara and Baghdad to carry out military assaults on the Iraqi border to expel the Kurdistan Workers Party [PKK] fighters.” His committee aims to achieve clarification from the government about any under the table deal made to attack the PKK within Iraq’s borders. All Turkish flights into Sulaymaniah (a city in Iraqi Kurdistan and the closest to the Turkish border) have been halted. The Iraq government, who now controls the Kurdish airports, cited security concerns for the travel ban.
Featured Image Courtesy of BijiKurdistan [CC BY 2.0] via Wikimedia Commons