Turkey’s anti-PKK operation begins in Iraq

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ANKARA: Turkey launched a military operation against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in northern Iraq on Monday.

Operation Claw, in the Hakurk region along the Turkish and Iranian borders, was conducted by commandos with air and artillery support.

The aim is to “neutralize terrorists and destroy their shelters,” said Turkey’s Defense Ministry.

PKK militants mainly enter Turkey through Hakurk, and usually launch offensives during spring and summer.

More than 40,000 people have been killed during the group’s decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state. The PKK is listed as a terrorist group by Turkey, the US and the EU.

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi recently visited Ankara and, at a joint press conference with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, promised further security cooperation.

Mete Sohtaoglu, an Istanbul-based Middle East expert, told Arab News: “This cross-border ground and air operation has support from Baghdad.”

Sohtaoglu said “time will tell” what Tehran’s reaction is to the Turkish operation. “Another aim of the operation is to cut links between the PKK and its Syrian affiliates,” he added.

The PKK’s jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan recently urged the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to “consider Turkish sensitivities in Syria, with constitutional assurances given within the framework of Syria’s territorial integrity.” Ankara says the SDF is affiliated with the PKK.

Bilgay Duman, coordinator of Iraq studies at the Ankara-based think-tank ORSAM, said Operation Claw is significant in that it was launched on the same day that Iraqi President Barham Salih was in Turkey for a working visit.

The Iraqi government “can’t become very active against the PKK as it doesn’t have any administrative efficiency in the northern territories, but it’s aware of all of Ankara’s sensitivities and concerns,” he told Arab News.

Duman said he expects Turkey to target specific infrastructure, logistical bases and key PKK figures with Baghdad’s support.

“The PKK’s presence in urban areas (in Iraq) like Sinjar and Mahmour is a serious problem to tackle as well,” he added.

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