Turkish army launches drill on Iraqi border ahead of KRG referendum
ANKARAThe Turkish army said it launched a military exercise on Turkey-Iraq border on Sept. 18, just a week before the Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) is set to hold a referendum on independence.
The exercise began in the Silopi province near the Habur border gate, which sits to the north of the Syrian and Iraqi borders. The army said the exercise is “part of Turkey’s anti-terror operations” in the border region.
Around 100 military vehicles including tanks, towed howitzers, and launching pads were reported to be participating in the drill, according to Doğan News Agency.
The move came after Turkey hardened its opposition to the KRG’s referendum bid, saying KRG President Massoud Barzani’s push to hold the vote is an issue of national security and Ankara will take “all necessary measures.”
Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım touched on the issue during a speech on Sept. 18, saying “any kind of initiative that threatens Turkey’s national security would be immediately reciprocated with the necessary response.”
Yıldırım called on “those chasing dreams in Syria and Iraq, trying to establish an artificial state” during his speech in the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa.
He vowed that Ankara would not allow a “fait accompli” on Turkey’s southern borders of Iraq and Syria, saying “we will not flinch from taking the necessary precautions.”
On Sept. 18, additional military forces, military construction vehicles and armored vehicles sent from other parts of the country reached the Reyhanlı district in the southern province of Hatay, located on the border with Syria.
Tight security measures were taken during the military shipment, which includes 80 armored vehicles sent from Kırklareli in the northwest.
Turkey is also continuing its diplomatic efforts to push Arbil to cancel the referendum.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan previously said Turkey’s “decisive stance” will be announced on Sept. 22 following the National Security Council (MGK) meeting under the leadership of himself and with the participation of senior military and civilian officials.