NATO member Turkey has launched a wave of airstrikes against Kurdish autonomy in northern Iraq, part of an ongoing campaign to destroy and degrade the group that has been battling the Turkish army on and off for Kurdish self-rule since 1984.
Ankara’s Defense Minister Hulusi Akar announced that attacks against police stations and army bases were planned and therefore hours later Turkish jets bombed 81 separate Iraqi targets for them to be “razed to the ground”.
The airstrikes targeting the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in the area spanning the Yazidi-dominated Mount Sinjar to the west and the Qandil mountains to the east was the biggest such Turkish NATO operation since 2015.
Dozens of US-made fighter jets, locally manufactured drones and mid-air refueling and airborne communication aircraft were deployed in “Operation Claw-Eagle” that was launched late last night and supervised by Akar.
The PKK Firat news agency said the strikes had targeted a UN-assisted refugee camp in Makhmour lying 50 km southwest of Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) that is home to more than 10,000 ethnic Kurds fleeing violence in Turkey since the 1990’s.
A group of local leaders from Qandil, Makhmour and Sinjar are due to hold a joint press conference for the international press tomorrow.
In Sinjar, where the Islamic State unleashed its genocidal slaughter of the Yazidis in 2014, Turkey conducted extensive airstrikes targeting more than 30 locations of the Sinjar Resistance Units, a local militia that has cordial ties with the PKK.
Ismael said the Iraqi government “should either respond militarily against Turkey or take the necessary steps at the United Nations to hold Turkey accountable.
If Turkey has security concerns over Sinjar, it must discuss them with Iraqi authorities, not terrify a population still recovering from genocide. Sinjar poses no threat to Turkey.
Iraq’s Defense Ministry condemned the strikes today, saying they were violation of Iraqi sovereignty, but the language of the statement was mild.
We call on Turkey to halt these violations and avoid repeating them and respect the bilateral relations between the two countries?
Ankara shows no signs of heeding Baghdad’s calls, chief among them to withdraw several hundred Turkish special forces who have been based in Bashiqa near Mosul since December 2015.
Its military and intelligence presence in Iraqi Kurdistan, despite occasional tut-tutting from KRG leaders, continues to grow. It’s believed to have around 20 bases of varying sizes in the region and since last year Turkish ground troops have been deploying in Kharkurk, where the Turkish, Iraqi and Iranian borders converge.
The Turkish army has pursued the PKK in northern Iraq for decades, both on the ground and from the air, causing the mass displacement of civilians, including a dwindling number of Christians in the border areas with Turkey.
The PKK settled in the Qandil mountains separating Iraq and Iran in the early 1990’s, benefiting from the vacuum left by Iraqi Kurdish forces who moved out at the end of the first Persian Gulf war when the NATO established a no-fly zone over northern Iraq.
On the political front, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) government simultaneously unleashed a ferocious campaign to hobble the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), detaining and prosecuting thousands of its members and sympathizers, including democratically elected lawmakers and mayors.
This was after the HDP won seats in the Turkish Parliament for the first time in 2015, denying the AKP a majority, another first.
At the same time, Turkey has carried its war to northeast Syria, where it invaded the Kurdish-majority city of Afrin in January 2018. It gobbled a further chunk between the towns of Ras al-Ain and Tell Abyad in an assault green-lighted by the Donald Trump administration in October last year.
Giran Ozcan, the HDP’s Washington representative reckons the current attack in Iraqi Kurdistan is connected to the “Justice and Democracy March” launched by the HDP in Turkey today.
History has shown, “this isn’t a fight they can ever win” and can only be resolved through peaceful negotiations, Ozsoy concluded.
AL Monitor / ABC Flash Point ME News 2020.