Turkey’s offensive into Iraq has long-term objectives
The timing, the scope and the objectives of the Turkish Armed Forces’ Operation Claw into northern Iraq convey important messages.
It has been launched hours before Iraqi President Barham Salih was scheduled to land in Istanbul for his second face-to-face meeting with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in nearly six months. Turkey and Iraq have been in a very close engagement since the election of Salih as president and the appointment of Adil Abdul-Mahdi as prime minister.
In a recent visit to Iraq’s both central and Kurdish regional governments, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu sought to further improve ties with Baghdad, including on a comprehensive anti-terror agenda.
It’s no secret that Turkey has long been urging the Iraqi government that it will take all the measures against the PKK presence in northern Iraq in the event that Iraqi law enforcement fails to do so. A prospect of a new security agreement between the two countries is high with expectations that it could be revealed during Erdoğan’s visit to Iraq later this day.
The scope of the operation reiterates Ankara’s determination in pushing the PKK terrorists off its borders with Iraq and Syria. A much-expected cross-border operation into the eastern Euphrates in Syria was put on hold due to the objections raised by the United States. Turkey and the U.S. are now negotiating over setting up a safe zone along the Turkish-Syrian strip without any presence of the YPG, the PKK’s Syrian leg.
In Iraq, things have been a little complicated due to the difficult terrain and the size of the geographical shelter the PKK has been enjoying over decades. The statements by the Defense Ministry have underlined that Operation Claw did not only target the Hakurk region, but also some positions in the Qandil Mountains where the PKK has its main headquarters.
Turkey’s operations are expected to endure through follow-up airstrikes in a bid to cut logistic pathways between northern Iraq and eastern Syria, where the PKK members are seeking to establish a new command center.
As can be recalled, Turkey’s campaign against PKK positions in northern Iraq intensified in early 2018 under the doctrine of nipping terrorists in the bud. The success of these operations has increased with the use of drones and armed drones which gave a new capability to the Turkish Armed Forces.
The army has also released footage of the operation by the commandos on the ground in a bid to boost the moral superiority. It did also reveal that a partial ground operation against the terrorists has been launched following a heavy bombardment by aircraft and strikes by choppers.
This operation is the continuation of what the army initiated in early 2018 with the purpose of clearing the Turkish borders of the terrorists who tend to move their camps to the southern parts of Iraq and Syria. The Turkish government has made clear a number of times that it remains committed to controlling all of its borders against any sort of terrorist infiltrations.
Improved ties between Ankara and Baghdad are obviously a very important asset in that regard.