Türkiye warns of major operation in Iraq to wipe out PKK-Xinhua

Türkiye warns of major operation in Iraq to wipe out PKK

Source: Xinhua

Editor: huaxia

2024-04-04 21:51:45

ANKARA, April 4 (Xinhua) -- Türkiye is increasingly warning of a large-scale military operation in northern Iraq to wipe out hideouts of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) while, in the meantime, seeking support from Iraq and Iran to achieve the goal.

"We will resolve the problems on our border with Iraq by the summer," Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in mid-March, adding his country has effective plans to root out PKK fighters.

The Turkish leader emphasized the need to establish "a 30 to 40 km security corridor" across the country's border with Iraq and Syria.

The PKK, listed as a terrorist organization by Türkiye, is based in the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq. The Turkish army frequently launches operations against PKK strongholds in the mountainous Qandil region of Iraq.

"The PKK is in a difficult situation in Iraq due to Türkiye's operations since 2019, Ankara wants to deal a final blow to its fighters," Oytun Orhan, a senior expert at the Ankara-based Centre for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies, told Xinhua.

"Türkiye is seeking a security corridor on the Iraqi border as the PKK has asserted its control of the area, a place with no state authority. Türkiye wants to clean these areas," he said, emphasizing that Ankara needs Baghdad's cooperation and coordination to do so.

In a change of policy, Bagdad officially banned the PKK in mid-March, ahead of Erdogan's planned visit to Iraq this month, which will be the first in a decade.

According to Orhan, there are not only political but also economic arguments behind this "crucial" move.

A successful Turkish army cleanup of the PKK will allow Iraq to strengthen its influence over all of its territory and prevent the group from posing a challenge to the country's security, said Orhan, adding it would also safeguard the "Development Road" project, a highway and railway trade route that would connect the Gulf to Türkiye through Iraq.

Given the unsafe maritime conditions in the Red Sea since last November due to the Yemeni Houthi attacks, this plan is considered by Turkish authorities as potentially important for the shipment of goods between Asia and Europe.

According to an unnamed Turkish source, Ankara's military plan calls for an extensive operation in mountainous regions in northern Iraq, with intelligence support from Baghdad.

This source added that during Erdogan's visit to Bagdad, an agreement is expected to be reached on operational issues, prioritizing joint efforts to eradicate the PKK.

Erdogan is also expected to visit Erbil, the capital of Iraq's semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan, as the regional government's support is seen as essential for a broad anti-PKK operation.

To debilitate permanently the PKK in Iraq, Türkiye is keen on gaining the support of another neighbor, Iran, said analysts.

"At this point, reaching a consensus between Ankara and Tehran on stability is essential," Murat Yesiltas, director of security studies at SETA Foundation, an Ankara-based think tank, said in a recent article in Daily Sabah newspaper.

In the past, during Turkish operations in Iraq, PPK fighters would flee to Iran. Ankara wants to prevent that in its next operation, explained Yesiltas.