Turkey is attacking alleged PKK positions in northern Iraq. Behind this is apparently the fear of a change of policy in the United States.
According to the newspaper Hurriyet, a total of 40 fighter jets bombed targets in northern Iraq (symbol photo) Photo: Xinhua/imago
Since Wednesday morning, the Turkish army has begun a new offensive against alleged positions of the Kurdish guerrilla PKK in northern Iraq. This is initially a cross-border operation that extends only a few kilometers into northern Iraq.
After Turkish special forces engaged in fighting with PKK militants, killing three soldiers, the Turkish Air Force intervened. According to the Hurriyet newspaper, a total of 40 warplanes bombed targets in northern Iraq. It is not yet known whether civilians were killed.
The current attack is described by the Turkish government as an act of self-defense and is supposedly intended to thwart imminent terrorist attacks by the PKK in Turkey. Already last year, there were two major attacks by Turkey on alleged or actual PKK positions in northern Iraq, which caused the Iraqi government in Baghdad and the Kurdish autonomous government in northern Iraq to protest vehemently. So far, however, there has been no word from Baghdad or the autonomous government.
This could be related to the fact that the Turkish government has made its current incursion more politically secure. Both Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut cavusoglu and Defense Minister Hulusi Akar have been to Iraq several times to discuss joint action against the PKK.
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If the current operation is carried out with the agreement of the Iraqi central government and the Kurdish autonomous government, it can be assumed that the Turkish army will expand its attacks in the coming days.
Ankara has long been talking about the need to drive the PKK out of its positions in the Sindjar area. There, the IS had brutally attacked the Yezidi minority years ago and was then repelled with the help of the PKK. Since then, the PKK is said to be organizing supplies for the Syrian Kurds from the area near the Syrian border.
However, the fact that the Turkish army has now begun the offensive, even though the weather conditions are still very bad, could have foreign policy reasons that go beyond northern Iraq.
Since new U.S. President Joe Biden took office, the Turkish government expects the U.S. to become more involved in Syria again, including stepping up its support for the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, which the previous U.S. President Trump had dropped.
Deal: No S-400s in Turkey, no U.S. aid to the YPG.
This horror scenario for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been made more concrete from Ankara’s perspective by Biden’s personnel decisions so far. The new U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has publicly criticized Erdogan’s policies several times in the past, and the new National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan is also known as an Erdogan critic.
But one personnel matter in particular has set alarm bells ringing in Ankara. Brett McGurk was appointed as special envoy for the Middle East, the same person who, until his break with Trump, was on the ground for years as U.S. coordinator in the fight against IS and is considered the architect of cooperation between the U.S. and the Kurdish militia YPG. For Erdogan and his National Security Council, he is therefore simply a PKK sympathizer because the Syrian Kurdish militia YPG is nothing more than an offshoot of the PKK.
So before the U.S. can once again strengthen the YPG-PKK militia, it now wants to create facts on the battlefield. Ankara has also gone on the offensive diplomatically in recent days. Erdogan sent his Defense Minister Hulusi Akar ahead to propose a deal to Biden.
"Our biggest problem with the U.S. is their support for the YPG," Akar said in an interview two days ago. The biggest problem the U.S. has with Turkey, on the other hand, is its purchase of the advanced Russian S-400 missile defense system, so Akar suggests Turkey could decommission the S-400 if the U.S. ends its support for the Kurds.