(Photo Credit Burak Kara via Getty Images)
Turkish National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar met his Iraqi counterpart Thabet Mohammad Saeed al-Abbasi on 21 March for talks concerning bilateral and regional security issues and cooperation in the defense industry, Anadolu Agency reported.
Defense Minister Akar expressed Ankara’s view that the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) organization poses a threat to both Turkiye and Iraq. Akar further claimed that Turkiye respects the border and territorial integrity of all its neighbors, especially Iraq, and that the Turkish forces are determined to end terrorism by protecting its borders and people.
Akar emphasized the importance of cooperation in the fight against terrorism, information sharing between both countries’ militaries, and the need to increase joint military training and exercises.
The meeting between Iraqi Defense Minister Al-Abbasi and Akar comes after years of tensions between Ankara and Baghdad regarding Turkish activity in northern Iraq.
As Belgian geopolitics commentator Hedwig Kuijpers wrote for The Cradle in September 2021:
“Turkiye not only shows little regard for Iraqi sovereignty in its relentless cross-border airstrikes and ground offensives against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), but it also undermines Iraqi territorial integrity by establishing dozens of Turkish military bases, some of them a mere 30-40 kilometers from its border. There is little doubt it has the confidence to act this way, in no small part because of the military and political cover extended by the KRG [Kurdistan Regional Government] in northern Iraq.”
Turkiye’s Directorate of Communications published a map in 2020 that showed the positions of Turkish troops in northern Iraq. According to the map, from Zakho to Hakurk in the west–east axis and from Avashin to Erbil in the north–south axis, Turkiye has 38 military posts or bases in northern Iraq.
In April 2022, Turkiye launched “Operation Claw Lock,” which was aimed at driving PKK forces away from their stronghold along the Turkish border. The campaign resulted in an unspecified number of civilian deaths while displacing thousands.
In July 2022, the Turkish military faced international criticism for bombing a tourist resort in northern Iraq. The attack killed 9 and injured more than 20 others in the mountain village of Parakh, in the Zakho district of Duhok province. At least three of the victims were children, according to the UN.
The Turkish military also initiated a campaign to target senior leaders and facilities of the Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS), a PKK affiliate in Sinjar that helped defend Yazidis against ISIS.
In June 2022, a 12-year-old boy was killed, and four YBS fighters were injured in the town of Sinune in Sinjar when a Turkish rocket smashed into a bookstore.
Nobel laureate Nadia Murad, a Yazidi genocide survivor who was enslaved by ISIS, called Turkiye’s attack “an act of terrorism.”
Murad told Al-Monitor that “Iraq has the ultimate responsibility to stop Turkiye from attacking Sinjar. The international community also has a moral responsibility toward Yazidis and the people of Sinjar. It is both painful and illogical that these attacks go [unaddressed] as if they are legitimate. It seems Turkiye can get away with anything.”