Baghdad, Iraq – Turkey’s newest army operation within the Kurdish area of northern Iraq started early final week, with Ankara launching an air and floor offensive focusing on the Kurdistan Employees’ Celebration (PKK) in pockets of Duhok province on April 18.
These operations towards the PKK, an armed group preventing for the autonomy of Turkey’s southeast and thought of a terrorist organisation by Ankara, have change into a daily incidence over latest years. Nonetheless, they’re rising extra controversial in Iraq, and never simply in areas administered by the Kurdistan Regional Authorities (KRG).
“This operation is mainly attempting to intervene and set up networks of statement, monitoring, and bases,” Sardar Aziz, an analyst and former adviser to the KRG parliament, informed Al Jazeera. “This time Turkey is planning to remain.”
Solely days earlier than Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ordered the launch of the operation, dubbed Claw-Lock, he met with the KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani, an obvious sign that the KRG was supportive, to a sure extent, of the operation. Erdogan has additionally mentioned that the Iraqi authorities cooperated with the operation.
But the Iraqi central authorities not solely refuted Erdogan’s declare, but additionally strongly condemned Ankara’s operation. Baghdad has additionally summoned the Turkish ambassador to register its opposition.
“The Turkish aspect is finishing up steady violations that aren’t primarily based on any authorized foundation or settlement between the 2 international locations … they invoke Article 51 of the United Nations Constitution for self-defence, and this can’t be applied with out official Iraqi approval,” Iraqi overseas ministry spokesperson Ahmed al-Sahaf mentioned.
Turkey says that operations towards the PKK in northern Iraq are essential to cease the group from finishing up additional assaults in Turkey.
Regardless of Ankara’s declare that it had acquired assist from each Erbil and Baghdad, it seems to be fairly clear that there’s a divide inside Iraq.
“The truth that President Erdogan talked about this operation occurred efficiently in cooperation with the Iraqi authorities, regardless of the Iraqi overseas ministry condemning the operation and summoning the Turkish ambassador, exhibits to you the dysfunction of Iraqi overseas coverage,” mentioned Hamzeh Hadad, a political analyst centered on Iraq.
“The KRG says one factor and the Iraqi overseas ministry says one other. The dysfunction is additional embarrassing when you think about the Iraqi overseas minister is from the KDP, the identical half because the KRG prime minister.”
The KRG has but to subject any official statements on the operation, and the inner division throughout the regional authorities might need contributed to this radio silence, in accordance with analysts.
“[The] KRG may be very divided and is unable to specific condemnation,” Aziz mentioned. “Erdogan is at all times utilizing Kurdish events to indicate that Kurds are agreeing with [him]; it’s effectively deliberate, and the intention is to indicate that the [KRG] authorities is supporting the operation.”
Assaults on Shia armed teams
The Turkish operation has come as Iraqi politics continues to face unsure instances, with a brand new authorities but to be shaped and negotiations between political factions ongoing, regardless of elections being held again in October 2021.
To make issues extra precarious, native Iraqi media retailers have that the Hashd al-Shaabi (PMF) armed group, a pro-Iranian predominantly Shia drive that has vital army affect in Iraq due to its position within the battle towards ISIL (ISIS), and now additionally has an essential political bloc.
Because the group’s institution in 2014, Turkey has thought of the PMF to be totally guided by Iran, in accordance with Harry Istepanian, an analyst primarily based in Washington, and due to this fact having no legitimacy in Sunni areas. An assault on the PMF could be thought of a provocative motion that sends a message to Iraq’s political teams, whereas additionally exposing a threat of additional escalations.
“Turkey performed the assault on the PMF as a warning message to the Shia factions to stay outdoors of Turkey’s political sport in Iraq,” Harry Istepanian informed Al Jazeera. “The presence of Turkish troops in Bashiqa and different places is consistent with its blatant opposition to [PMF] presence in what are thought of Sunni areas.”
Turkey has not formally commented on experiences of the assaults on the PMF, and Al Jazeera couldn’t independently confirm the experiences.
How the PMF will reply, if in any respect, will seemingly sway among the future course of Turkey’s army ambition in Iraq.
“It’s potential to see extra assaults on the PMF,” Istepanian mentioned. “Nonetheless, any PMF assault could be a brand new stage of the battle, which might permit to be towards the Turkish intervention.”
For now, Iraq’s confused response to Turkey’s operation displays its personal confused state, with out a authorities or a strong sense of objective. A extra concrete place on Turkey could solely be potential when that’s resolved.
“It’s tough to find out whereas within the present impasse of selecting a brand new authorities,” Istepanian mentioned. “Your entire geopolitical panorama will depend on quite a lot of regional elements related to Turkey’s future relations with Iran and the south Caucasus, the Russian army invasion of Ukraine and Turkey’s inner politics and financial troubles.”