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Iraqi Kurdistan is embroiled in a Turkish war with rebels

#Iraqi #Kurdistan #embroiled #Turkish #war #rebels

After artillery shelling killed nine people in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan Region, Baghdad called for the withdrawal of Turkish forces and said Ankara should solve its “domestic problems” with PKK rebels far from Iraq’s borders.

But can a weakened Iraq, with Turkey as the regional economic, military and diplomatic power, break free from the decades-long war between Ankara and Kurdish rebels?

AFP sees what’s at stake:

– What is the Turkish presence? –

Over the past 25 years, the Turkish army has maintained some 40 outposts in Iraq’s Kurdish north, where it has conducted several operations against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Ankara and its western allies list as a “terrorist” organization.

The rebels have maintained a deadly pro-Kurdish self-government insurgency in southeastern Turkey since 1984. They rely on rear bases and training camps hidden in the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan.

Turkey also regards the Kurdish People’s Defense Units (YPG) in neighboring Syria as an extended arm of the PKK and has also launched offensives there.

“Since 2020, Turkey’s airstrikes and military ground operations against the PKK in northern Iraq have intensified,” said Shivan Fazil of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

The figures are difficult to verify, but according to an analysis by Salim Cevik, published by the German Institute for International Politics and Security, Turkey indicates “a constant deployment of 5,000-10,000 soldiers on Iraqi territory”.

“Today, most of the military conflicts between the Turkish army and the PKK take place on Iraqi and Syrian soil,” Cevik wrote, noting that “the use of drones in particular appears to be very effective in enhancing the PKK’s logistics and maneuverability in the region.” to restrict. “

Civilians are caught in the crossfire, including on Wednesday when the nine – including women and children – were killed.

Iraq blamed Turkey, which denied its troops and blamed the PKK.

“Fire shelling and bombing has repeatedly resulted in civilian casualties, destruction of homes and livelihoods, and displacement of villagers,” Fazil said.

– What are the further effects? –

Baghdad wants Turkish forces to leave its territory, but for that to happen, Fazil said Ankara “might require the Iraqi government to expel the PKK.”

“Is the Iraqi government capable of restoring that kind of territorial sovereignty across its borders and expelling armed non-state actors?” asked Fazil.

Iraq has only an interim government as political parties failed to agree on forming a new government nine months after the elections. The country is plagued by corruption and trying to emerge from decades of war and unrest.

The problem has repercussions far beyond Iraq’s borders. NATO member Turkey has demanded the extradition of dozens of suspected “terrorists” from Finland and Sweden so it can ratify their bids for membership of the alliance.

Turkey is also threatening a new offensive against the People’s Defense Units in Syria. They are the main component of the de facto army of autonomous Kurds, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which has provided crucial support to a US-led coalition against jihadists from the Islamic State group.

The angry demonstrations that erupted after the deaths of nine Iraqi civilians also touched on another source of tension. Iraqis blame Turkey’s dams for reducing the flow of water into their parched country’s rivers.

That anger will likely be short-lived, said Marsin Alshamary of Harvard Kennedy School’s Middle East Initiative.

“I think public anger will lead to a boycott of goods and travel, but I don’t think it will last unless more Iraqis die,” she said, citing the consumer-driven economic relationship between the two countries .

“Iraqis are the second largest group of foreign homeowners in Turkey.”

– Internal Kurdish tensions? –

In Iraqi Kurdistan, the struggle has moved away from the border and deeper into Iraqi territory and populated areas.

But it’s difficult for the region to blame Ankara, given its important economic ties — particularly the need for oil from Iraqi Kurdistan to pass through Turkish pipelines en route to export markets.

There are also tensions between the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP), whose stronghold is the regional capital of Arbil, and the PKK.

Fazil noted skirmishes between the two armed groups in 2020 and last year, adding to fears of open conflict.

“The PKK accuses the KDP of supporting Turkey’s operations,” the researcher said, while the latter insists that the rebel presence in Iraq’s Kurdistan region “invites attacks by Turkey.”

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#Iraqi #Kurdistan #embroiled #Turkish #war #rebels

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