Drones turning battle against Kurdish militants - AFP

Turkish and Iranian drones are shifting the balance of power against Kurdish militants in northern Iraq, Agence France-Presse said on Thursday.

Turkey stepped up cross-border military operations against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in June, using unmanned ariel vehicles (UAV) to gain an advantage against the group’s bases in the Qandil mountain range.

Turkey has used the new technology to help create a 15km buffer zone in northern Iraq, a PKK spokesperson told AFP.

Qandil Mayor Mohammad Hassan said "not a day goes by” without drone sightings in the area.

Iranian-Kurdish armed groups are also active in the region; Tehran has sought closer cooperation with Ankara as it seeks to counter their threat, similarly deploying domestically produced drones.

Increased Turkish military activity has, however, heightened tensions with the United States and Iraq. "The Turks are overflying U.S. positions with armed assets, which is a no-no. There is general mistrust and irritation over all this," a U.S. source told AFP.

In August, a Turkish drone strike killed two high-ranking Iraqi commanders, prompting outrage from Baghdad. But Iraqi officials have little leverage with which to push back against Turkish encroachment. Instead, “larger powers tend to use (Iraq) as a shooting gallery”, AFP cited Adam Rawnsley of Foreign Policy Research Institute as saying.