Turkey, Iran defy Iraq’s sovereignty in seemingly coordinated strikes

Turkey and Iran are openly defying Iraq’s sovereignty while making similar claims of alleged pursuit of Kurdish armed formations.

According to a report by Sky News Arabia, Turkish aircraft and Iranian artillery targeted the town of Haji Omeran in Iraq’s Erbil governorate on Tuesday.

The mayor of Haji Omeran, located along the Iran-Iraq border in north-eastern Iraq, told Rudaw that Iranian artillery has targeted Iranian Kurdish opposition groups in the area before but that Turkish strikes on the area were unheard of.

“We suspect that the two sides are in coordination, because this is the first time that Turkey has bombed this region,” said the district mayor Farzang Ahmed.

“This region is frequently and every year under Iran’s shelling, on the grounds that they are targeting Kurdish opposition parties.”

The strikes came a day after the launch of Turkey’s Operation Claw-Eagle, which targeted Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) bases in northern Iraq.

On Wednesday, Turkey said it had airlifted troops for a cross-border ground operation against Turkey’s Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq, the first known airborne-and-land offensive by Ankara inside Iraqi territory.

The offensive into the border region of Haftanin, some 15 kilometres (9 miles) from the Turkey-Iraq border, was launched following intense artillery fire into the area, said the Turkey’s defence ministry.

The operation by commando forces is being supported by warplanes, attack helicopters, artillery and armed and unarmed drones, according to the ministry’s statement posted on Twitter. It did not say how many troops are involved.

Turkey regularly carries out air and ground attacks against the outlawed PKK, which it says maintains bases in northern Iraq and which it labels as terrorist organisation despite Baghdad’s protest.

Turkey has defended previous operations into northern Iraq, saying neither the Iraqi government nor the regional Iraqi Kurdish administration have acted to remove PKK insurgents who allegedly use Iraq’s territory to stage attacks on Turkey.

The ministry said the operation follows “increasing harassment and attempts to attack” military outposts or bases in Turkey.

It said the Turkish forces would target other “terror” groups in the region, but did not name them, and shared videos of Defense Minister Hulusi Akar overseeing the mission at a command centre in Ankara.

The development came days after Turkey launched an air operation in the region, which the defence ministry said hit suspected PKK targets in several locations in Iraq’s north, including Sinjar, and targeted 81 rebel hideouts.

A Turkish military official said the operation began with artillery units targeting some 150 suspected PKK positions and was followed by an aerial attack involving F-16s, drones and attack helicopters.

Some of the commandos crossed the border by land while other units were transported by helicopter. The troops had begun to enter PKK hideouts in Haftanin, the official said, providing the information on condition of anonymity in line with government rules.

It was not clear if the latest offensive would target the Sinjar region, which the Turkish government says has become a new base for PKK commanders.

A video provided by the Turkish defence ministry showed Akar addressing the commandos, saying they “will make history once again.”

“Turkey continues its fight against terrorists using the rights based on international law,” said Omer Celik, deputy chairman of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development (AKP) party.

In recent years, Turkey has worked to increase and diversify its military intervention in Iraq, seizing on the weakness of the Iraqi state, which is bogged down with political, social, security and economic challenges.

Baghdad summoned Ankara’s ambassador to Iraq, Fatih Yildiz, June 16 to protest Turkey’s pounding of PKK targets in northern Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region.

Turkey began expanding its military footprint in Iraq last summer in an intense operation against PKK targets following the July 17 assassination of Osman Kose in Erbil. Kose worked for the Turkish Consulate there and Ankara has blamed the PKK for his killing.

Turkish officials have said their operations have focused on cutting supply lines and transport routes connecting the PKK in Turkey and Iraq.