Facilitation by Barzani suspected in Turkish incursion into northern Iraq

Reports of Ankara establishing military bases in the area.
Friday 19/06/2020
A file picture of Turkish tanks during past military exercises near the Habur crossing gate between Turkey and Iraq in the Silopi district, southeast Turkey. (AFP)
A file picture of Turkish tanks during past military exercises near the Habur crossing gate between Turkey and Iraq in the Silopi district, southeast Turkey. (AFP)


Kurdish political sources said that the broad Turkish operation underway in northern Iraq could not have been possible without prior coordination and facilitation with the Kurdish parties, especially the Kurdistan Democratic Party led by Masoud Barzani. The Iraqi government strongly condemned the Turkish incursions and summoned the Turkish ambassador in Baghdad, Fatih Yildiz, twice within the space of 36 hours.

The sources indicated that Kurdish authorities are looking for ways to protect their interests with some Arab countries while Turkey is circulating news that the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) is receiving support from countries hostile to Ankara, and especially after reports indicating that Turkey is building military bases in northern Iraq.

Local sources said that the authorities of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq associated with Barzani are still keeping silent about the Turkish military operation, while tracking money transfers directed to support the opposition PKK.

Iraqi-Kurdish political analyst Hoshyar Malu said that “Turkey is violating international law while the Iraqi government is showing a timid reaction” regarding the first Turkish air strikes, a reaction that did not deter a ground operation.

A Turkish official said that his country intends to establish more temporary military bases in northern Iraq after it intensified its strikes on Kurdish fighters there, indicating that these efforts will ensure border security.

The Arab Weekly previously reported a secret visit by Turkish intelligence chief Hakan Fidan to Baghdad last week, during which he met with a number of Iraqi officials.

Sources said that the Iraqi government, for its part, refused to publicly acknowledge Fidan’s visit, and also refused to grant Ankara any economic or military guarantees.

Turkey has admitted that it used F16 fighter planes, missile launchers and heavy artillery in its three-day operation in northern Iraq, while lawmakers in the Iraqi parliament said that Turkish aircraft made a 200km deep incursion into Iraqi territory in an unprecedented development.

“It is inconceivable that Turkish forces would enter without actual cooperation from the Iraqi Kurdish authorities," researcher Adel Bakwan said.

Turkey has maintained more than a dozen military sites inside Iraqi territory in the Dohuk governorate since 1995.

But today, in a tense political context, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan considers Iraq one of the places where he would reaffirm Turkish might in accordance with an expansion strategy sought by the Turkish president.

Turkish minister of defence of Turkey, Hulusi Akar (C) at the Army Command Control Centre in Ankara during the military operation in Northern Iraq. (AFP)
Turkish minister of defence of Turkey, Hulusi Akar (C) at the Army Command Control Centre in Ankara during the military operation in Northern Iraq. (AFP)

Bakwan explained that Ankara is "deeply committed to being present in Syria and Libya, and would like to be in Yemen too. Its plan relies on presenting itself as a major power in Middle East conflicts, and Iraq is part of that.”

On Thursday, Iraqi Foreign Ministry said that it had summoned the Turkish ambassador to Iraq "again" and handed him a “strongly worded protest note,” inviting his country to “stop such provocative acts.”

The Iraqi Foreign Ministry summoned Fatih Yildiz Tuesday and handed him a memorandum of protest against “previous incursions by Turkish military aviation,” and stated that “according to diplomatic customs, the Turkish Ambassador is assumed to have transferred the memorandum to his government, and informed it of the content of the meeting.”

The ministry condemned “in the strongest terms the resumption on June 17 by Turkish armed forces their violations of Iraqi sovereignty by bombing and attacking targets within our international borders.”

The ministry further affirmed its “categorical rejection of these violations that breach international charters and laws,” stressing “the necessity of the Turkish side's commitment to stop the bombing and withdraw its aggressor forces from the Iraqi lands they had penetrated and from their locations in Bashiqa Camp and other places.”

According to the Iraqi government, “Turkey was the cause of the increased insecurity in the common border area between us, since the peace initiative it had pursued with the PKK in 2013 led to the settlement of many elements of this Turkish party inside Iraqi territory without approval or consultation with Iraq; and we had protested this in the Security Council at that time.

Baghdad called on the Turkish government to “listen to the voice of reason and put a stop to to these attacks,” affirming that “Iraq retains its legitimate rights to take all measures that will protect its sovereignty and the safety of its people, including requesting the Security Council and the relevant regional and international organisations to shoulder their responsibilities.”

The Turkish operation in northern Iraq was condemned by a number of Arab countries. The UAE, for instance, condemned Turkish and Iranian military interventions in Iraq, which took the form of bombing areas in northern Iraq, in stark violation of the sovereignty of a fellow Arab country and the principles of international law.

In its statement on Thursday, the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs affirmed the UAE's steadfast and firm position rejecting all interference in the affairs of Arab countries and its keenness on respecting the sovereignty of brotherly Iraq, observing the principles of good neighbourliness and refraining from committing any actions that might threaten stability, security and peace in the region.

Also on Thursday, Saudi Arabia expressed its condemnation of the Turkish and Iranian aggression on Iraqi lands, stressing its support for Baghdad in its measures to preserve its sovereignty, security and stability.

The air strikes were accompanied by ground incursions and landing of fighters at various locations inside Iraqi territory to hunt down the PKK.

On Thursday, media outlets reported that Turkish armed forces destroyed more than 500 PKK targets “during the first 36 hours of Operation Tiger Claw that was launched in Haftanin in northern Iraq.”

Turkey attaches great importance to this process, as it is being monitored by the army’s top brass “moment by moment, from the operations centre of the Ground Forces Command, with the participation of Defence Minister Hulusi Akar and Chief of Staff Yashar Guler.”