Turkish operations in Iraq aim at PKK’s Qandil bases

Intensifying air and artillery strikes against Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets in north-eastern Iraq aim to pave the way for the occupation of the Qandil mountains, wrote journalist Namık Durakan, in an article appearing in Turkish Milliyet newspaper on Sunday.

The PKK, which has been waging an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984, has its main headquarters in the rugged Qandil mountains that straddle the Iran-Iraq border in the north-east of Iraq.    

The operation against Qandil will proceed two stages, wrote Durakan. In the ongoing first stage, communications links between Qandil and Turkey will be severed and permanent bases, of which 19 are so far in place, will be established in Iraqi territory.

Continued air and artillery strikes against PKK assets will then pave the way for ground operations to advance on Qandil.

Thus far, Durakan reports, Turkish forces have advanced as far as 35km into Iraqi territory, mostly in the Hakurk region, with further Turkish reinforcements waiting to enter on the region from Turkey.

Although Turkey has made frequent military incursions into northern Iraq in its ongoing struggle with the PKK, including a major operation in 2008, it has never seriously threatened the PKK bases in Kandil and any such operation would have to overcome substantial military and political obstacles, including challenging terrain, to succeed.