Turkish map of ‘divided’ Iraq triggers criticism

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (AP)
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Updated 14 July 2020

Turkish map of ‘divided’ Iraq triggers criticism

  • Row follows launch of two major military operations against PKK last month in northern Iraq

ISTANBUL: A map posted by the official Twitter account of the Turkish Presidency drew an angry reaction from Baghdad because it showed a divided Iraq.

The map, which was deleted after criticism, was intended to illustrate the locations of Turkish troops that have crossed the border and advanced up to 40 kilometers in 38 areas of Northern Iraq. However, it highlighted the northern part of the country in yellow and the rest in green. It also revealed that Turkish forces were deployed in the cities of Erbil, Soran, Duhok and Zakho.

“If you share such maps, you will then legitimize other official sources who share maps of a divided Turkey,” said Aytun Ciray, a Turkish opposition politician from the IYI Party, emphasizing the need for respecting neighboring Iraq’s territorial unity.

The row over the map follows the launch of two major operations against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in mid-June in northern Iraq, dubbed Claw-Tiger and Claw-Eagle, which were criticized by Iraqi authorities. A fifth Turkish soldier has been killed during the ground offensive, Turkey’s Defense Ministry announced on Sunday night.

The PKK is listed as a terror group by Ankara, Brussels and Washington. The group allegedly uses about 81 locations in northern Iraq as bases from which to launch attacks in Turkey.

Baghdad considers the presence of Turkish troops a “blatant breach of the UN charter” and said it is concerned about the safety of “unarmed civilians” during Turkish operations. Iraqi Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmad Al-Sahaf said on July 3 that the country might file an official complaint with the UN Security Council (UNSC) if Turkey does not halt its military activity in the north.

He added: “We reject any unilateral action that would harm our sovereignty. We started with a statement of condemnation and may resort to gathering support from the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and could file a complaint to the UNSC.”

Ryan Bohl, a regional analyst with the Stratfor geopolitical consultancy, suggested that the release of the contentious map was an attempt by Ankara to signal to Iraq, as well as the PKK and the international community, that it intends to maintain its current level of operations for some time.

“That in and of itself is a strain with Baghdad, since Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi can’t necessarily count on the operation winding down and going back to a status quo,” he said.

However, Bohl added that the withdrawal of the map shows that Ankara does not want to be viewed as a permanent occupying force by Iraq or its allies.

“(Turkey) wants northern Iraq to be seen as different than its spheres of influence in Syria, which are signaled to be much longer term,” he said. “So Ankara is trying to walk a fine line between showing that this operation will be more significant than previous ones against the PKK, but trying not to make it appear like it will be an occupying or permanent force in northern Iraq.”


Angry Lebanese set up mock gallows amid calls for ‘revenge’ over blast

A Lebanese protester hangs a gallow in downtown Beirut on August 8, 2020, following a demonstration against a political leadership they blame for a monster explosion that killed more than 150 people and disfigured the capital Beirut. (AFP)
Updated 08 August 2020

Angry Lebanese set up mock gallows amid calls for ‘revenge’ over blast

  • MPs resign in protest as political fallout intensifies
  • As the dust settles from the disaster, the political fallout is intensifying

BEIRUT: Thousands of protesters set up a mock gallows in Beirut’s Martyr’s Square on Saturday and demanded “revenge” against politicians widely held responsible for the deadly explosion that devastated large swathes of the Lebanese capital.

At least 60 people are still missing after the massive blast in Beirut port, which killed more than 150 people, injured 5,000 others and left thousands homeless.

As the dust settles from the disaster, the political fallout is intensifying.

Police fired teargas and rubber bullets at thousands of people who gathered in the capital calling for the downfall of the country’s political elite, chanting:
“The people want the regime to fall.”

More than 100 protesters were injured in the clashes.

After demonstrators set up the mock gallows, effigies of political leaders, including former prime minister Saad Hariri and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, were displayed in some of the most explicit signs of public anger seen in years.

Police shot live ammunition in the air in an attempt to disperse the protesters, who responded by hurling rocks and charging security cordons.

One of the protesters, who gave her name only as Lina, said: “We came from Hasbaya in solidarity with Beirut. We came to stand together in grief and offer condolence for the loss of sons and daughters.

“We came to tell all the leaders to leave so that we can rebuild what you have destroyed, what happened is because of your negligence and greed,” she said.

Meanwhile, the three-member Kataeb party parliamentary bloc resigned on Saturday in protest at the blast, bringing to five the number of MPs to quit since the disaster.

In an emotional speech during a funeral service for a top party official who died in Tuesday’s blast, party leader Samy Gemayel announced his resignation and that of the two other MPs.

Independent MP Paula Yacoubian also resigned, while MP Michel Daher announced his withdrawal from the Strong Lebanon bloc led by the Free Patriotic Movement head Gebran Bassil.

As international aid flows into shell-shocked Beirut, Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Turkish Vice President Fuad Oktay and European Council President Charles Michel arrived in the city to deliver relief aid and offer support.

After meeting President Michel Aoun and inspecting damage at the Foreign Ministry, near the port, Gheit said he would ask the Economic and Social Council to meet in the next two weeks to "examine the situation in Lebanon and how to help.”

He described the situation as “a disaster,” and said that “we must recognize that the Lebanese situation is difficult and complex.”

The Netherlands Foreign Ministry announced that the wife of Dutch envoy to Lebanon Jan Waltmans died of wounds sustained in the blast.

The Syrian Embassy in Lebanon said that 43 Syrians were among those killed in the explosion.

Military teams working at the blast site carried out tests for chemical, radioactive or biological agents on Saturday, Col. Roger Khoury told Arab News during a media tour.

Rescue teams are working round the clock looking for cell phone signals in the search for those missing after the blast.

However, the teams say they are being hampered by debris from the explosion, including concrete rubble from grain silos destroyed in the blast.

Military divers searching the port and nearby ocean for victims of the blast found a body hurled 500 meters by the force of the blast.

By early Saturday, a total of 61 relief planes had landed at Beirut airport carrying medical and relief supplies as well as food, Ministry of Defense Operations Room Commander Brig. Gen. Jean Nohra told Arab News.

He said that medical supplies are being distributed in coordination with the Ministry of Health.

Supplies are being stored at the headquarters of the Central Military Medical Authority in Beirut before being distributed, he said.