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Ankara-Erbil-Washington Coordinated In Turkish Operation in Northern Iraq?

Alwaght- Operation Eagle Claw 2 is the latest in a series of Turkey’s operations in neighboring Iraq’s north.

Over the past few days, fierce clashes erupted between the Kurdistan Workers’ Party and the Turkish forces in Garreh Mountain in Duhok province of the Kurdistan region. The operation comes as in less than a year, the Turkish army has staged two military operations in northern Iraq under the excuse of the PKK activism in the autonomous Kurdish region.

On June 15, 2020, Turkey launched Operation Eagle Claw by sending its commandos to the Haftanin area in northern Iraq. Then, on June 17, 2020, it carried out Operation Claw-Tiger. And in the new round of the operations, Garreh Mountain in Duhok is the target of attacks by Turkish military.

The new operation raises some question: What does Turkey seek behind the renewed attacks on northern Iraq? What would be the stance of the Iraqi and foreign actors to the campaign?

New border triangle targeted by Ankara

The Turkish government has taken an active intervention using its military in the region in recent years, particularly since 2016, when it launched Operation Euphrates Shield, including in the city of Jarabulus in the northern Syrian province of Aleppo. Most of the areas controlled by the PKK and its minion militias in the region have been targeted by Ankara. This persuades many observers to evaluate the Turkish government’s approach as neo-Ottomanist and as part of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s efforts to expand the Turkish territory.

Turkish Defense Minister General Hulusi Akara insists that the operation in Garreh Mountain should go ahead. He asserted that the campaign will continue until the PKK presence in the area ended. But obliteration of the PKK is not all the aim. There is an important triangle: Qandil-Sinjar-Dirak. Actually, the military strategists in Turkey over the past few months have been specifically seeking control over strategic areas in Iraq’s Sinjar and Syria’s Dirak. Fearing international reactions seem to be the reason for delay in launching the campaign.

Additionally, Turkey has never been able to control this strategic region due to special restrictions in the Qandil Mountains, and its efforts have always failed over the years. But now it seems that Turkey is seeking full control of the Kurdish areas in northern Iraq and Syria. Although in northern Iraq the Turkish attacks will probably cover urban areas, in Syria specifically, Ankara even has in mind annexation of northern Syria to its own territories.

In fact, it can be said that in Operation Eagle Claw 2, the attack on Garreh does not mean abandoning the Turkish plan to attack the Syrian city of Dirak or Sinjar in Iraq, and the possibility of the Turkish army attacking these areas under the pretext of Kurdish forces in these areas is still high.

Erbil’s meaningful silence to Turkish new attacks

Despite the significant extent of the Turkish army’s attacks in the new round, Erbil, or better to say the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), remains meaningfully silent. Even KDP’s inaction has pushed the PKK leaders to accuse the party’s leader Masoud Barzani of assessing the Turkish campaign in Garreh. Last month, Akar visited Baghdad and then Erbil for talks with the two capitals’ officials. At the time, Anadolu news agency reported that the defense minister traveled to discuss anti-terror cooperation with Iraq.  Given the start of a new round of Turkish attacks, the silence by Kurdish region’s leaders invites to the speculation that they are aware and even coordinated with Ankara.

Although Ali Hussein, a member of the KDP leadership council and in charge of party communications, denied any cooperation with Turkey, he in a sympathetic position with Ankara stressed that the PKK’s presence in the region is the main cause of these attacks. He continued that the PKK fighters entered the region and carried out operations against Turkey, dragging the Turkish army into the region and causing these attacks and damage to the region.

Barzani’s differences and tensions with the PKK are not hidden from anyone, and the KDP’s record of cooperation with Turkey in carrying out operations against the PKK is several decades long. This reached a climactic point in the 1990s. The KDP also appears to be seizing every opportunity to harm the PKK and is likely to pursue a strategy of logistical cooperation with the Turkish military. The KDP and the Barzani consider the PKK to be one of the main factors exacerbating the new round of popular protests in the region over poor living conditions and rife political corruption.

The US ambiguous game amid Turkish attacks

But in addition to Barzani’s party, the US appears to be another actor in a new round of Turkish attacks on northern Iraq and violation of its sovereignty. Without condemning the attack, Washington has stressed that such operations must respect the sovereignty of Iraq. This position of the Biden administration can be considered somewhat contrary to the expectations which said the post-Trump US would end soft tone towards the Turkish actions in Syria and Iraq.

The White House is now focused on finding a way to keep its troops on Iraqi soil and circumvent a parliamentary resolution on the expulsion of foreign troops. In recent months, the US secretly assisted the ISIS terrorist organization to flex its muscles to Iraq again and reorganize its sleeper cells with the aim to paint the Iraqi security conditions instable and the security forces unable to secure the country once the Americans pull out.

Although the revival of ISIS in Syria seems to be underway to inflame the political and security atmosphere in Iraq, this tactic has not yet come into fruition with the intelligence and efforts shown by the Iraqi security forces, especially the Popular Mobilization (PMF), also called Hashd al-Shaabi. So, it appears that Washington takes advantage of the Turkish ambitions to demonstrate a need for Iraq to allow the American troops stay to guard its security and national sovereignty. Actually, the Operation Eagle Claw 2 comes with the American green light.


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