Iraq and Turkey have been trying to avoid a confrontation over the latter’s threat of a military operation into Ninewa’s Sinjar. As part of that process Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi and Turkey’s Premier Binali Yildrim had a conversation where they each promised to respect each other’s sovereignty, while in practice neither was doing so.
The two premiers talked on March 27 about the dilemma posed by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) presence in northern Iraq. Abadi said that the Iraqi forces would not allow any foreign fighters along the Turkish border, and that he rejected any violations of Turkish territory coming from Iraq. To ensure that he claimed that the security forces were in control of all of Iraq, and they would stop the PKK crossing into Turkey. Finally, he rejected any violation of Iraqi territory by Ankara’s forces. Yildrin replied that while Turkey respected Iraq’s sovereignty, it also held the right to launch operations against the PKK without Baghdad’s approval. This came in the wake of President Recep Tayyip Erodgan announcing an intervention into Sinjar against the PKK that didn’t actually happen, but did lead the Kurdish group to withdraw.
This was all political posturing as neither leader was being honest, except for the last statement by Yildrin. Back in January, Turkey moved 7 kilometers into Kurdistan targeting the PKK. More recently, in mid-March Ankara’s forces again invaded, this time going 15 kilometers into Irbil. They have reportedly created new bases and occupied up to 28 villages. Ankara has also reinforced its presence in Bashiqa in Ninewa. Starting last year, President Erdogan has increased his targeting of the PKK due to its growth in both Syria and Iraq. In both countries, the group has expanded its influence fighting the Assad regime and protecting the Yazidis in Sinjar. As a result, Turkey has launched almost weekly air and artillery strikes upon PKK positions in Kurdistan, and is now engaged in an on going military operation. All of this was done without consulting with Baghdad.
Abadi’s statements were even more empty. When he talked about all of Iraq’s borders being secure he was only referring to Ninewa where the Iraqi forces had just taken control this month after the PKK said it withdrew. In Kurdistan, Baghdad has no presence at all to deter either Turkey or the PKK. In fact, the Kurdish regional government doesn’t even have Peshmerga there. That means the Workers Party will continue to stay there and cross back and forth as it pleases between the two countries.
The reality is that Turkey and the PKK will continue to ignore Iraq’s sovereignty, and there is nothing the Iraqi government can do about it. Iraq’s borers are porous on all sides. That’s the reason why the PKK has been in northern Kurdistan for decades and Turkey continues to attack the area.
Ebraheem, Mohammed, “Turkish PM rules out military offensives against PKK fighters without Iraqi approval,” Iraqi News, 3/27/18
eKurd, “Turkish army entered seven kilometers into Iraqi Kurdistan: authorities,” 1/31/18
Haaretz and Associated Press, “Iraqi PM Orders Troops to Secure Borders Amid Turkish Threats of an Incursion Into Iraq,” 3/27/18
Al Maalomah, “Turkey establishes new military bases in Irbil, 3/23/18
- “Turkey increases its military presence in Baashiqa and warns of occupation of Mosul and Kirkuk,” 3/28/18
Reuters, “Iraq will prevent militant Kurdish attacks on Turkey: PM Abadi,” 3/27/18
Rudaw, “Erdogan announces operation in Shingal to remove PKK,” 3/25/18
- “Iraqi PM Abadi rejects ‘any’ territorial violations by Turkey’s anti-PKK ops,” 3/27/18
- “Turkey now occupies 28 villages in Kurdistan Region,” 3/26/18
- “Turkey: We carried out a military operation in northern Iraq up to 15 km,” 3/16/18