Turkey begins large-scale operation in northern Iraq against Kurdish militants

Special Turkey begins large-scale operation in northern Iraq against Kurdish militants
Turkish soldiers conduct military exercises near the Habur crossing gate between Turkey and Iraq. (AFP/File)
Short Url
Updated 18 April 2022

Turkey begins large-scale operation in northern Iraq against Kurdish militants

Turkey begins large-scale operation in northern Iraq against Kurdish militants
  • Latest offensive likely to have repercussions in domestic politics in the eyes of nationalist voters, analyst tells Arab News
  • Special forces, elite commando units deployed for ‘Operation Claw Lock’

ANKARA: Turkey has begun the new week with the launch of a large-scale ground and aerial cross-border offensive against Kurdish militants in northern Iraq.

Alongside artillery, T129B helicopters, drones and F-16 fighters, Turkey’s Special Forces and elite commando units were also deployed as part of the campaign that reportedly struck targets of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, in northern Iraq’s Metina, Zap and Avashin-Basyan regions.

The cross-border action, named Operation Claw Lock, came a day after Turkey’s Minister of Interior Suleyman Soylu said: “We will save Syria and Iraq from the hands of the US and Europe, and bring peace there.”

For Zaed Ismail, member of the scientific committee of the Istanbul-based Academy of International Relations, the operation is related to increased missile strikes against the Turkish base in Zilikan in Nineveh, and the PKK’s expansion in northern Iraq deep into Sinjar. It is also linked to recent political contact between Ankara and Irbil.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently met with Masrour Barzani, the prime minister of Iraq’s Kurdistan regional government in Irbil.

Experts have noted that Sinjar is turning into an alternative headquarters for the PKK.

“The military operations began about a week after the visit of Barzani to ​​Ankara and it clearly indicated the existence of security coordination between Irbil and Ankara to launch the military operation,” Ismail said.

Ismail said the PKK “began posing an increased existential threat to the political stability of the entire geography of northern Iraq, with repeated missile attacks on Irbil Airport.”

The offensive was carried out in coordination with Turkey’s “friends and allies,” the Defense Ministry stated.

But, for Ismail, it is difficult to resolve the battle through airstrikes, unless the international conditions are created for a broad ground operation.

The operation, which began at midnight, was launched as Russia showed no letup in its invasion of Ukraine, while Turkey’s mediation role was welcomed by Western partners.

Both the US and the EU have already designated the PKK as a terror group.

Tuna Aygun, an Iraq expert at Ankara-based think tank ORSAM, said the latest operation took place as part of a previous offensive, but this time Turkey was targeting runaway elements of the PKK from the eastern and western parts of the region.

“The operation area (had been) a shelter for the PKK militants for some time. Especially since 2017, (the) PKK mostly concentrated its logistical and military strength in Iraq to hit targets in Turkey,” he told Arab News.

“By establishing temporary military bases, Turkey aims at establishing its control on the transit routes of the militants according to the geographical characteristics of the territory,” said Aygun.

However, it is still unclear how long the military operation will endure and whether the movements of the PKK militants will be restricted.

“It will not be a one-day operation. But with the increased use of armed drones during such offensives, these moves do not depend any longer on the clim(actic) conditions,” Aygun said. He added that Turkey’s latest operation has the support of Baghdad and Irbil because it is being seen as a way to stabilize a region where thousands of civilians were displaced in recent years due to the PKK’s presence.

Ahead of the upcoming elections next year, this operation is also likely to have domestic repercussions in Turkish politics in the eyes of nationalist voters, and used as a trump card against the opposition pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party.

Yerevan Saeed, research associate at the Arab Gulf Institute in Washington, said Turkey has been seeking to build a security zone inside the Kurdistan region for a number of years.

“The military operation appears to be deeper and more intense this year,” he told Arab News.

Its objectives are likely to include seizing control of strategic areas of Afashin, Matin, Khukuk and Zab. “(The) Turkish military has failed to control them in the past,” he added.

“If successful, Ankara will be able to separate Qandil mountains where PKK bases are located from (the) Rojava and Sinjar areas, (restricting the) PKK’s movements.”

Ali Semin, an expert on Iraqi politics from Nisantasi University in Istanbul, said the offensive is part of a series of operations since 2019 to create a buffer zone between its border with Northern Iraq and PKK-dominated areas.

“Ankara seems to seize the best political opportunity to expand its operation,” he told Arab News.

“The leadership in Baghdad and Irbil consider the latest activities of the PKK as an intervention (to) their political presence,” said Semin.

“Unlike the past operations of Turkey that were criticized by Iraqi authorities as a violation of their territorial sovereignty, Turkey’s current operation mostly (have) their backing,” said the expert.

Over the last three decades, Semin said, about 250 villages had been evacuated in northern Iraq. This was also where fighting in the past few years has intensified between Peshmerga forces loyal to the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the PKK.

According to Noah Ringler, an expert from Georgetown University, the offensive has received military support from the Turkish-aligned KDP Peshmerga and comes amid ongoing challenges with government formations in Baghdad, where Turkish officials now believe they have broad support from political parties for the operation.

“The goals of the operation likely include new Turkish operations posts closer to the PKK’s strategic strongholds near Qandil mountains, which holds political significance in Turkey, as well as disruption of PKK operations and influence in the region, and the strengthening of Kurdish and Iraqi political actors aligned with Turkey,” he told Arab News.

Experts also note that the success of such operations will also influence local dynamics in Syria.

“(The) Kurdish People’s Protection Units are mostly supported logistically and militarily by the PKK bases in Sinjar,” Semin said.

Baghdad and Irbil reached a security and administrative agreement on Sinjar on Oct. 9, 2020.

However, the agreement that called for the removal of PKK forces in the region has not been implemented yet.

“Turkey, together with Baghdad and Irbil, can be a facilitator to execute this agreement and turn the region into a secure zone where the Iraqi authorities regain control,” Semin said.

IMF says preparing for first review of Egypt program, dates to be confirmed

IMF says preparing for first review of Egypt program, dates to be confirmed
Updated 11 sec ago

IMF says preparing for first review of Egypt program, dates to be confirmed

IMF says preparing for first review of Egypt program, dates to be confirmed
  • Disbursements under the 46-month program are subject to eight reviews
CAIRO: Preparations for the first review of Egypt’s economic reform program with the International Monetary Fund have begun and dates for the review mission will be announced when agreed with the authorities, an IMF spokesperson said on Thursday.
The IMF approved in December a $3 billion Extended Fund Facility loan for Egypt, which has been under acute financial pressure since long-standing problems were exposed by the economic fallout from the war in Ukraine.
Disbursements under the 46-month program are subject to eight reviews, the first of which was dated March 15, 2023 in an IMF staff report published in December.
Among the key commitments that Egypt made to secure the loan were a permanent shift to a flexible exchange rate regime and wide-ranging structural reforms to reduce the state’s footprint in the economy.
Egypt’s currency has lost nearly 50 percent of its value over the past year following three sharp devaluations. In the past two weeks it has traded in a narrow band between 30.75 and 30.95 pounds to the dollar, according to Eikon data, although the pound’s value on the black market has slipped.
Analysts say the pound has come under renewed pressure partly due to delays in expected sales of state assets.

World Bank Group launches new partnership framework for Egypt

World Bank Group launches new partnership framework for Egypt
Updated 15 min 40 sec ago

World Bank Group launches new partnership framework for Egypt

World Bank Group launches new partnership framework for Egypt
  • Framework aims to boost private-sector jobs, improve human capital and enhance shock resilience

CAIRO: The World Bank Group’s board of executive directors on Wednesday approved a new Country Partnership Framework for Egypt, which lays out a strategy in the country for 2023–2027, Emirates News Agency reported.

The new CPF is in line with Egypt’s Sustainable Development Strategy, Vision 2030, and National Climate Change Strategy 2050. It aims to achieve three high-level outcomes.

First, the framework aims to boost private-sector jobs by fostering an enabling environment for private sector-led investments and job opportunities, as well as by establishing a level playing field for the private sector.

Second, the CPF seeks to improve human capital outcomes by promoting inclusive, equitable, and improved health and education services, as well as effective social protection programs.

Third, it seeks to improve shock resilience through improved macroeconomic management and climate change adaptation and mitigation measures.

“The Country Partnership Framework 2023 -2027 between Egypt and the World Bank Group establishes a new phase of development cooperation and joint action to support efforts in achieving inclusive and sustainable growth. This is anchored in national objectives, the country’s 2030 vision and presidential initiatives,” Dr. Rania Al-Mashat, Egypt’s minister of international cooperation, said.

“Through our extended partnership with the World Bank Group, more work will be done over the next five years to stimulate private sector engagement in development projects, increase job opportunities, enhance investment in human capital and promote climate action,” Al-Mashat added.

Marina Wes, the World Bank’s country director for Egypt, Yemen and Djibouti, said: “This CPF supports Egypt’s efforts to build back better by creating conditions for green, resilient, and inclusive development. It puts the Egyptian people at the center of its strategy, with a heavy focus on job creation by improving the business environment and leveling the playing field.”

The CPF also aims to strengthen Egypt’s role in regional integration by improving regional trade and increasing connectivity in infrastructure, transportation, energy, and labor.

Furthermore, the CPF seeks to integrate governance and citizen engagement as well as women’s empowerment across its programs.

IMF: Lebanon in ‘very dangerous situation’ with reforms stalled

IMF: Lebanon in ‘very dangerous situation’ with reforms stalled
Updated 32 min 35 sec ago

IMF: Lebanon in ‘very dangerous situation’ with reforms stalled

IMF: Lebanon in ‘very dangerous situation’ with reforms stalled
  • IMF warns Lebanon will face crisis without reforms
  • Lebanon must ‘accelerate’ some reform measures, IMF says
  • Losses from financial meltdown must be borne by all, IMF says

BEIRUT: The International Monetary Fund warned on Thursday that Lebanon was in a very dangerous situation a year after it committed to reforms it has failed to implement and said the government must stop borrowing from the central bank.
IMF mission chief Ernesto Rigo told a news conference in Beirut that the authorities should accelerate the implementation of conditions set for a $3 billion bailout.
“One would have expected more in terms of implementation and approval of legislation” related to reforms, he said, noting “very slow” progress. “Lebanon is in a very dangerous situation,” he added, in unusually frank remarks.
Lebanon signed a staff-level agreement with the IMF nearly one year ago but has not met the conditions to secure a full program, which is seen as crucial for its recovery from one of the world’s worst financial crises.
Without implementing rapid reforms, Lebanon “will be mired in a never-ending crisis,” the IMF warned in a written statement after Rigo’s remarks.
The economy has been crippled by the collapse of the Lebanese currency, which has lost some 98 percent of its value against the US dollar since 2019, triggering triple-digit inflation, spreading poverty and a wave of emigration.
The crisis erupted after decades of profligate spending and corruption among the ruling elites, some of whom led banks that lent heavily to the state.
The government estimates losses in the financial system total more than $70 billion, the majority of which were accrued at the central bank.
“No more borrowing from the central bank,” Rigo said.
“Over the years, the government has been borrowing from the central bank. Not just in the past (but also) the last few months, which is something we have recommended should stop.”
The IMF has called for financial sector losses to be distributed in a way that preserves the rights of small depositors and limits recourse to state assets, though powerful politicians and banks have pushed back, delaying the recovery.
“Suffice it to say that the loss is so large that there will unfortunately have to be a distribution between the government, the banks and depositors,” Rigo added.
Still, he said that the IMF would “never walk away” from helping a member country and there was no deadline for Lebanon to implement the reforms.

Some observers say that an IMF deal now appears further away than ever before.
“To anyone observing Lebanon over the last four years, the likelihood of an IMF program being implemented appears slim to none,” Mike Azar, a financial consultant and expert on the Lebanese financial crisis, told Reuters.
“There is no urgency, no incentive and no pressure on decision-makers to implement any of the basic reforms,” he said, adding that Lebanon was instead headed for disorderly dollarization, collapsing public services and the wiping out of remaining deposits.
Authorities have passed some reform measures, such as a 2022 budget, an audit of the central bank’s foreign asset position and a revised banking secrecy law.
But the IMF’s statement on Thursday said the revised banking secrecy law should be amended again “to address outstanding critical weaknesses.”
Lebanon still has no capital control law, has not passed legislation to resolve its banking crisis and has failed to unify multiple exchange rates for the Lebanese pound — all measures the IMF has requested.
Rigo said that Lebanon should move toward a market-determined exchange rate, rather than maintaining multiple rates including the central bank’s Sayrafa exchange rate, which is not set by market forces.

Jordanian, Bosnian ministries exchange tourism development ideas

Jordanian, Bosnian ministries exchange tourism development ideas
Updated 59 min 5 sec ago

Jordanian, Bosnian ministries exchange tourism development ideas

Jordanian, Bosnian ministries exchange tourism development ideas
  • Industry is largest contributor to Middle East country’s national economy, job creation

AMMAN: Imad Hijazin, secretary-general of Jordan’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, has received a delegation from Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Ministry of Environment and Tourism, agencies, and representatives from the country’s Developing Sustainable Tourism project.

The purpose of the visit is to exchange ideas in tourism development, including marketing and archeological site preservation, Jordan News Agency reported.

Jordan holds benefits for all types of traveler, Hijazin said, adding that the National Tourism Strategy 2021-2025 had five main aims: product development, human resource development, marketing, heritage maintenance and management, and reforms.

The tourism industry is Jordan’s largest contributor to the economy and job creation, bringing in revenue of $5.7 billion in 2022 while welcoming around 5 million tourists.

The Bosnian delegation praised Jordan’s advanced infrastructure, natural environment, and its tourist and archeological sites.

Ramadan starts in Mideast amid high costs, hopes for peace

Ramadan starts in Mideast amid high costs, hopes for peace
Updated 23 March 2023

Ramadan starts in Mideast amid high costs, hopes for peace

Ramadan starts in Mideast amid high costs, hopes for peace
  • During Ramadan, mosques and charities regularly provide meals for the poor at long tables that sprawl out onto the street
  • From the Gaza Strip to Sudan and Tunisia to Yemen, soaring prices are proving a further concern for observant Muslims

KHARTOUM: Hundreds of millions of Muslims began the first daily fast of Ramadan on Thursday, as parts of the Middle East approached crucial junctures in high-stakes peace negotiations during the holy month, traditionally a time of reconciliation
In Sudan, parties are wrangling over how the country will usher in a civilian government following 17 months of military rule. In Yemen, diplomats are pushing for a lasting truce, following the recent rapprochement between regional powerhouses Iran and Saudi Arabia which have been locked in a proxy war there for eight years.
During Ramadan, observant Muslims abstain from food and water from dawn to dusk, before gathering with family and friends for indulgent nighttime meals. According to Islam, fasting draws the faithful closer to God and reminds them of the suffering of the poor.
In Khartoum, Sudan’s capital, families prepare culinary delights weeks in advance to mark the break of the fast each evening, a meal known as iftar. For the feasts, Sudanese worshippers favor assida, a semolina-based flour dish, and a sugary fermented drink called, “sweet bitter” — both recipes that date back generations.
“Those who can’t afford don’t have to pay,” said Fatima Mohammed Hamid, who sells food items from her small home on Tuti island on the Nile River, just north of Khartoum.
In addition to fasting, charity giving is another of Islam’s five pillars. During Ramadan, mosques and charities regularly provide meals for the poor at long tables that sprawl out onto the street.
Sudan has been steeped in political chaos since a coup ousted a Western-brokered power-sharing government in October 2021. There are hopes for a transitional government before the four weeks of Ramadan end, as promised by the country’s ruling military and other political forces earlier this week. However, many prominent Sudanese factions reject the move.
Amid the uncertainty, most find common ground in complaining about the rising cost of living.
“Everything costs double what it did last year,” said Hamid.
At a meeting Egypt earlier this week, Israeli and Palestinian delegations pledged to lower tensions during the sensitive holiday season — Ramadan will coincide with the Jewish festival of Passover in April — but surging violence continues across the occupied West Bank. There are concerns about flare-ups with large numbers of Jewish and Muslim faithful expected to pour into Jerusalem’s Old City.
From the Gaza Strip to Sudan and Tunisia to Yemen, soaring prices are proving a further concern for observant Muslims. Arab countries are continuing to suffer from the economic fallout of the war in Ukraine, with many reliant on grain imports from eastern Europe.
At the once-bustling Bab Al-Fellah market in Tunis, the capital of Tunisia, rising costs have left shoppers unable to splurge on Ramadan delicacies as they might have in past years.
“I have almost used up the 40 dinars (roughly $13) that my husband gave me and I bought only vegetables, a chicken and some spices,’’ said Fatima B., embarrassed to give her full name out of her financial desperation.
In Pakistan, shoppers reported similar hardships, with inflation surging to nearly 40 percent. Many said they would consider breaking the daytime fast if free food were to be handed out.
In war-torn Yemeni capital of Sanaa, prospects for Ramadan are bleaker still, with residents struggling to buy even basic supplies. The country’s ruinous civil war, now in its ninth year, has killed more than 150,000 people and pushed millions to the brink of famine.
“I am not able to provide daily food for the children,” said Saleh Al-Omrani, an unemployed resident from Sanaa. “We had Ramadan in the good old days, but today there is no longer Ramadan.”
Diplomats and leaders had expressed new hope for peace efforts in the days leading up to Ramadan, amid signs of warming relations between two of the region’s rival superpowers, Iran and Saudi Arabia. The two are on opposing sides of the war in Yemen, and despite announcements of restoring ties, sporadic fighting continues across the country. Clashes in Yemen killed at least 16 people earlier this week.
In Afghanistan, people are observing their second Ramadan under Taliban rule. Since the Taliban seized power in the country in August 2021, foreign aid stopped almost overnight and the economy collapsed, driving millions into poverty and hunger.
In southern Turkiye and northwestern Syria, the destruction caused by last month’s earthquake, which killed over 52,000 people, poses perhaps the steepest challenge of all.
In the Turkish city of Kahramanmaras — near the quake’s epicenter — worshipers held the first Ramadan prayers inside a 1,000-person tent on the grounds of the city’s famed Abdulhamid Han Mosque. Turkiye’s fourth-largest mosque sustained slight damage in the temblor and has been closed to worshippers, Turkish media said.
Some 1,400 mosques have been destroyed or damaged by the quake, Turkish authorities say, leaving tens of thousands to pray in makeshift tents. More than 100 sound systems have been installed to recite the call to prayer.
In Syria’s northwestern Idlib province — the last rebel enclave — very few families still have the energy or resources to make the necessary preparations for Ramadan this year.
Abdul Qahar Zakou, a cafe owner from, said he will put up Ramadan decorations despite the prevailing misery and do his best to create a festive atmosphere.
“Despite all the odds, Ramadan will always have its own atmosphere, with a symbolism and spirituality that makes life easier,” said Zakou.
Fasting is required of all healthy adult Muslims, with exemptions for those who are sick, pregnant women and those breastfeeding.
Alongside eating and drinking, smoking and sexual intercourse are also prohibited during daylight hours in Ramadan.
Islam follows a lunar calendar, so Ramadan starts about a week and a half earlier each year. At the end of holy month, Muslims celebrate the Eid Al-Fitr holiday, when children often receive new clothes and gifts.