Turkey aims to cut PKK’s Syria-Iran corridor 

Turkey aims to cut PKK’s Syria-Iran corridor 

Although very busy in Syria and Libya, the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) has launched a massive anti-terror operation in a sizeable area of northern Iraq with the participation of air and land forces.

On June 15, the Turkish Air Forces started what it called the “Claw-Eagle” operation, followed by the Land Forces’ “Claw-Tiger” operation on June 17 led by the Special Forces and commandos.

To recall: In line with a new preemptive doctrine adopted in the past years, Turkish security forces have long been carrying out operations against the PKK inside and outside Turkey without a break.

According to statements from the Interior Ministry, as a result of this continuous campaign, there are now fewer than 500 PKK terrorists left inside the country, and those that do remain do not pose a big threat against the country.

Outside its soil, Turkey has extended the scope of its fight against the PKK into northern Iraq where it has installed more than a dozen observation posts since late 2016 and into northeastern Syria where the organization’s affiliate, the YPG, is operating. Turkey also conducted two main anti-YPG operations in northern Syria to nix the organization’s plans to create what it called a “terror corridor.”

For many security experts, the ongoing Operation Claw-Eagle and Operation Claw-Tiger is the continuation of the TSK’s earlier anti-terror engagements in these countries. It’s believed that the PKK is trying to spread its influence toward the southern parts of northern Iraq as it is expelled from the Turkish border. Sinjar is one of the locations where the PKK is trying to use as its second most important headquarters after the Kandil Mountain.

Turkey has long pressed both the Kurdistan Regional Government and the central government in Baghdad to cooperate against the PKK’s ambitions to continue its presence in different parts of the country.

But Sinjar is not the PKK’s only destination. It has also been increasing its visibility and influence in Sulaymaniyah, another important spot near the Iranian border. Turkey has long warned the local government over the PKK’s activities in that city, too.

Recently at a press conference, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu complaint about the growing presence of the PKK in Sulaymaniyah. “They are now in the streets of Sulaymaniyah and they control hundreds of places. They are putting pressure on political parties and therefore posing a threat to us. That’s why Operation Claw-Tiger will continue step-by-step until terrorists will be eliminated from there as well. This is good for both Turkey and Iraq,” he stated.  

According to security officials, the main objective of the PKK is to create a corridor stretching from the Iranian border to Syria, through Sulaymaniyah and Sinjar provinces and integrate their fragmented structures. The objective of the Turkish operations is to disrupt the PKK’s plans to create a new lifeline by breaking this corridor which serves as the logistical center of the terror organization.

Ankara sees breaking the corridor in northern Iraq just like it did in eastern Syria as a necessary and strategic move against the PKK’s ambitions to reenergize and launch a new terror campaign against Turkey.