Turkey Launches Ground Offensive Against Kurds in Northern Iraq

Offensive begins as Turkey scrambles special forces into area

Iraq issued a statement complaining of a violation of sovereignty on Wednesday when Turkey, which has been airlifting troops and special forces into northern Iraq in recent days, launched a new offensive against the Kurdish PKK in the Haftanin region.

Turkish troops and attack helicopters, along with drone strikes, are reportedly involved. Turkey’s government was not specific about the number of troops participating, but did say that they hold this to be a  legal defensive operation under international law.

Turkey has been fighting the PKK for decades. The Turkish-based PKK is a separatist group and considered a terrorist organization by Turkey as a result. Turkey often pursues the PKK into neighboring Iraq, and while Iraq tends to condemn them, they also rarely do anything about it.

The PKK was already establishing a presence in northernmost Iraq during a brief ceasefire with Turkey. Joint Kurdish operations against ISIS in recent years put PKK forces in several parts of traditional Iraqi Kurdistan, particularly around Sinjar. This has led Turkey to launch a new campaign against them.

Turkey views the PKK as the primary Kurdish group, and accuses most others, like the Syrian YPG, of being subsidiaries. This led Turkey to send some reinforcements into Syria, expecting that the new Iraqi offensive would ultimately provoke a retaliation from the Syrian Kurds.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of Antiwar.com.