Turkey Extends Anti-Kurd Airstrikes Into Northern Iraq

Turkey Extends Anti-Kurd Airstrikes Into Northern Iraq | Claims targets belong to PKK forces inside Iraq

Fighting a protracted war against Kurdish forces inside southeastern Turkey, and invading northern Syria last week primarily with an eye toward fighting against the Kurdish YPG forces there, Turkey’s military today confirmed anti-Kurd strikes in a third country, Iraq.

The state media reported a series of cross-border airstrikes into the Gara region in northernmost Iraq, hitting targets which Turkey claimed were linked to the PKK. It is not unusual for Turkey to make such claims in strikes against Iraq, though often the locals insist there was no PKK presence in targeted areas.

The PKK is primarily a faction within Turkey itself, where it is a major secessionist movement and considered a terrorist organization. To facilitate what were ultimately failed peace talks in recent years, a number of PKK forces were relocated across the border, into Iraq, and since the resumption of the war last year has made those areas targets.

Turkey claimed to have destroyed targets in northern Iraq, but there are so far not any casualty figures or any confirmations out of Iraq about what was hit. Generally speaking, neither the Iraqi government nor the Kurdistan Regional Government offer much more than token criticism of such strikes.

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Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of Antiwar.com.

  • richard young

    What do national borders signify if your nation is The Good Guys and the nations you choose to invade or bomb are The Bad Guys? The beauty of exceptionalism is that the exceptional can do whatever they please, not only without guilt but with a sense of righteousness. From Nazi Germany to our own US of A, welcome to the 21st Century.

  • Bianca

    The very transparent goal that any empire sets for itself is to control points of communication, transportation and trade. So is with Kurdish question. Forever exploited by imperial promises, forever left empty handed. And forever, unable to either come up with goals that unite them, nor being able to find the peace within the countries they are part of. Always at odds with each other in four countries, and forever unable to integrate politically or economically.
    And in this case nothing new. Turkish secessionism has been for years supported from outside forces, usually imperial enablers, such as Israel. Iraqi Kurdish experience is more complex, but the pattern the same. First empire sets up a no-fly zone over northern Iraq, creating a Kurdish mini-state to cozy up to. Yet, Kurds were mistrustful and found themselves between the empire and Baghdad. Imperial punishment came swiftly — ISIS showed up anywhere some disciplining was required. So, suddenly, they are in Mosul, of all places. Where did they come from? Where were they before? No problem, empire moves in mysterious ways. Then came the disciplining of Syrian Kurds that were unwilling to turn backs on Damascus. Well, Kobani was attacked, hundreds of hostages taken, hundreds of civilians dead. Kobani? Isn’t it a bit out of the way of supposed Sunni cult homeland in Iraq, supposedly the product of unhappy Sunni’s after the fall of Saddam Hussein? Why would it be a problem, when ISIS can fly all the way to Libya and attack anti-US government in Tripoli, supposedly Islamists? Or fly into Yemen, just to cause havoc among the secessionists of the South Yemen? Or lately — Bangladesh? Swiftly, Kerry offered security help to the country! Beware those imperial gifts, that first send you the locust, and then promise to defend you.
    Kurds in Syria made a serious mistake — not all Kurds, just YPG militia. That is, to accept generous offer by US to take over regions in which Kurds were the minority, and to ethnically cleanse the region of non-Kurds. Like town of Manbij. Now, they have blood on their hands, and all the sundry groups that joined the US excellent adventure, are now flocking to Turkish side.
    The area between Euphrates and Tigris is critical to the future of Iraq, Syria and Turkey. These three states do not need a Kosovo like entity, permanently kept in hostility against the three states, and preventing any meaningful trade, transportation and economic development projects. With US bases planted firmly on its soil. Thus, Turkey is taking a stand on Kurdish YPG militia expansion past Euphrates in Syria. In Iraq, Turkey and Baghdad have an ally in Kurd Peshmerga leader Barzani. He was in Ankara ahead of the Turkish military move. At the same time, Iraqi forces and Kurds are slowly chipping away at the region around Mosul — indicating the intent to jointly work on its liberation. In the sign of improved relations, Baghdad is again opening up transit of oil across Kurdish area for Turkey port of Ceyhan — and assuming the responsibility to pay the percentage to Kurds. But in Iraq, Turkish secessionists have taken positions — and are NOT on friendly terms with Iraqi Kurds. This is why Barzani does not object to Turkish actions against them. Turkey has a while ago established a military base close to Mosul. It is a given, that it will work with Baghdad and Barzani Kurds to liberate Mosul, and that key Turkey demand is — Iraqi territorial integrity. Hence, no Kurdish enclaves with US or other Western bases in it.
    In Syria, since the region between Euphrates and Tigris is partially occupied by ISIS — while YPG is holding partially Syrian government held town of Hassaka — I expect further Turkish inroads into the region. Three fold objective: remove YPG militias from the region, take control over a motley crew of various “rebels”, and attack ISIS. US will not have any boots on the ground, unless it suddenly decides to send troops there — risking outright fight with Turkey. But what would be the purpose? To force partition of Syria, even though Kurds will not be in the region that US really desires? So, I am afraid that the gamblers will try to talk YPG to stick it out — and fight Turkey. Turkey then can take other asymmetrical moves, like take Mosul together with Iraqi and Kurdish forces. Or force groups in Aleppo to give it up — to save their skins, and give Aleppo to Syria. Or Kurds — non YPG will object to their militia adventures. There are many, many scenarios. One can be Syrian/Russian attack on Raqqa from already prepared bases between Raqqa and Palmyra. Then, with political transition, all the participants will have to talk politics — but there will be no talk of dividing Syria.
    Who knows, the gamblers of the empire may think that they still have the wild card in supporting Kurdish “freedom”, as it sounds good — even if it is on the heels of ethnic cleansing. Empire is very experienced at such things — Croatia ethnically cleansed of it Serbian minority, Kosovo as well.
    But this time it is different. There are regional states that will not stand for it. Iraq, Turkey, Iran and Syria. Nobody in the greater region will support secessionism.
    It is worth remembering that Turkey was not ISIS target until US started to complain against Erdogan, and neocon news outlets were full of the “madman”, “dictator”, “corrupt”, and the standard fare of demonization.
    But funding such terrorist groups may become not only expensive, but politically risky. These “non-state” actors need a great deal of support and logistics — with Saudi funds drying up, and Saudi wars and adventures — from Bahrain to Yemen getting sour, money and political fervor has thinned out. Would be rulers of the Arabian Sunni world, will have to mind their own business. Especially as they are not particularly liked by Qatar or Oman — who will at the first chance to stick it to them be available.