Baghdad, Iraq – Turkey’s latest military operation within the Kurdish area of northern Iraq started early final week, with Ankara launching an air and floor offensive concentrating on the Kurdistan Staff’ Occasion (PKK) in pockets of Duhok province on April 18.
These operations in opposition to the PKK, an armed group preventing for the autonomy of Turkey’s southeast and thought of a terrorist organisation by Ankara, have grow to be a daily prevalence over current years. Nevertheless, they’re rising extra controversial in Iraq, and never simply in areas administered by the Kurdistan Regional Authorities (KRG).
“This operation is mainly making an attempt to intervene and set up networks of statement, monitoring, and bases,” Sardar Aziz, an analyst and former adviser to the KRG parliament, instructed 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 in addition 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 based mostly 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 carried out with out official Iraqi approval,” Iraqi overseas ministry spokesperson Ahmed al-Sahaf mentioned.
Turkey says that operations in opposition to the PKK in northern Iraq are essential to cease the group from finishing up additional attacks in Turkey.
Regardless of Ankara’s declare that it had obtained 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, reveals to you the dysfunction of Iraqi overseas coverage,” mentioned Hamzeh Hadad, a political analyst targeted 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 challenge any official statements on the operation, and the interior division inside the regional authorities might need contributed to this radio silence, based on analysts.
“[The] KRG may be very divided and is unable to precise condemnation,” Aziz mentioned. “Erdogan is at all times utilizing Kurdish events to point out that Kurds are agreeing with [him]; it’s nicely deliberate, and the intention is to point out that the [KRG] authorities is supporting the operation.”
Assaults on Shia armed teams
The Turkish operation has come as Iraqi politics continues to face uncertain times, 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 in opposition to ISIL (ISIS), and now additionally has an vital political bloc.
Because the group’s institution in 2014, Turkey has thought-about the PMF to be totally guided by Iran, based on Harry Istepanian, an analyst based mostly in Washington, and subsequently having no legitimacy in Sunni areas. An assault on the PMF can be thought-about 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 exterior of Turkey’s political sport in Iraq,” Harry Istepanian instructed Al Jazeera. “The presence of Turkish troops in Bashiqa and different places is according to its blatant opposition to [PMF] presence in what are thought-about 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 doubtless sway a few of the future course of Turkey’s army ambition in Iraq.
“It’s doable to see extra assaults on the PMF,” Istepanian mentioned. “Nevertheless, any PMF assault can be a brand new stage of the battle, which might enable to be in opposition to the Turkish intervention.”
For now, Iraq’s confused response to Turkey’s operation displays its personal confused state, and not using a authorities or a strong sense of objective. A extra concrete place on Turkey could solely be doable when that’s resolved.
“It’s troublesome to find out whereas within the present impasse of selecting a brand new authorities,” Istepanian mentioned. “The complete geopolitical panorama will depend on quite a few 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.”