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)
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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.


Austrian, Egyptian FMs hold talks in Cairo

Austrian, Egyptian FMs hold talks in Cairo
Updated 16 sec ago

Austrian, Egyptian FMs hold talks in Cairo

Austrian, Egyptian FMs hold talks in Cairo
  • Topics discussed include terrorism, immigration, Russia-Ukraine war, global food crisis

CAIRO: Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg and his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry held talks in Cairo, discussing the fight against terrorism, illegal immigration, the Russia-Ukraine war and the resulting global food crisis.

At a joint press conference, Schallenberg stressed the importance of resolving the global food crisis resulting from the conflict.

Shoukry said the war has impacted all the world’s countries, adding: “Egypt is the largest importer of wheat in the world, but we have enough reserves for our people and we are working to provide other quantities.”

He said Egypt is in contact with all parties, and its goal is to restore stability and end the conflict.

Shoukry received Schallenberg at the Egyptian Foreign Ministry headquarters. They discussed ways to enhance cooperation between Egypt and Austria, especially in the political, economic and investment fields.


Egypt’s House of Representatives approves Saudi PIF deal

Egypt’s House of Representatives approves Saudi PIF deal
Updated 9 min ago

Egypt’s House of Representatives approves Saudi PIF deal

Egypt’s House of Representatives approves Saudi PIF deal
  • The agreement aims to encourage, support and protect PIF investments in Egypt

CAIRO: Egypt’s House of Representatives, the lower house of Parliament, has approved an agreement signed in March between Cairo and Riyadh regarding Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.

The agreement aims to encourage, support and protect PIF investments in Egypt, enhance bilateral trade, and expand both countries’ investments in other countries regionally and internationally.

The PIF, established in 1971, is one of the largest sovereign wealth funds in the world, with assets estimated at $620 billion.


IIF welcomes Egypt’s hosting of COP27

IIF welcomes Egypt’s hosting of COP27
Updated 25 min 53 sec ago

IIF welcomes Egypt’s hosting of COP27

IIF welcomes Egypt’s hosting of COP27
  • The IIF includes more than 400 members representing financial institutions from more than 70 countries

CAIRO: The managing director and head of sustainable finance at the Institute of International Finance said it welcomes Egypt’s efforts to host the UN Climate Change Conference in November given the event’s great global importance.

Sonja Gibbs, during a video meeting with International Cooperation Minister Rania Al-Mashat, said COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh is a great opportunity for Egypt to present its achievements and plans in the field of climate action.

The IIF includes more than 400 members representing financial institutions from more than 70 countries.

It works to support global financial stability, economic sustainability and development efforts.


Port director general dismissed after Aqaba investigation findings of deadly gas leak

Port director general dismissed after Aqaba investigation findings of deadly gas leak
Updated 03 July 2022

Port director general dismissed after Aqaba investigation findings of deadly gas leak

Port director general dismissed after Aqaba investigation findings of deadly gas leak
  • The Director General of the Maritime Authority has also been dismissed

Jordanian Prime Minister, Bishr al-Khasawneh, said on Sunday that the Director General of the Ports Management and Operations Company and a group of officials in the company have been dismissed due to findings of the Aqaba gas leak incident. 

Thirteen people were killed, including at least four Asian migrants, when toxic chlorine gas escaped on the dockside in the Jordanian Red Sea port of Aqaba last week.

The Director General of the Maritime Authority has also been dismissed following the report's findings. 

Khasawneh said that the Aqaba incident report will be referred to the Public Prosecution. 

He added that the investigation found major "inability and failure in safety procedures and dealing with hazardous materials in the port."

The results of the investigation will be announced with full transparency to public opinion.

 


Shark attack kills two women in Egypt’s Red Sea: ministry

Shark attack kills two women in Egypt’s Red Sea: ministry
Updated 03 July 2022

Shark attack kills two women in Egypt’s Red Sea: ministry

Shark attack kills two women in Egypt’s Red Sea: ministry
  • All beaches in the area have been closed down

CAIRO: Two women were killed in a shark attack in a resort town on Egypt’s Red Sea coast, the environment ministry said Sunday, after video said to be of one attack emerged.
“Two women were attacked by a shark while swimming” in the Sahl Hasheesh area south of Hurghada, the Egyptian ministry said on Facebook, adding that they had both died.
The statement did not provide any detail on their identities.
But Red Sea governor Amr Hanafi had ordered on Friday the closure of all beaches in the area for three days after “an Austrian tourist had her left arm torn off, seemingly in a shark attack.”
Social media users on Friday had shared a video — the authenticity, date and location of which AFP could not independently verify — showing a swimmer struggling before what appeared to be a pool of blood emerged around her.
A task force is working to “identify the scientific causes and circumstances of the attack” and determine “the reasons behind the shark’s behavior that resulted in the incident,” the environment ministry said.
The Red Sea is a popular tourist destination, where sharks are common but rarely attack people swimming within authorized limits.
In 2018, a Czech tourist was killed by a shark off a Red Sea beach. A similar attack killed a German tourist in 2015.
In 2010, a spate of five attacks in five days unusually close to the shore of tourist hotspot Sharm el-Sheikh killed one German and injured four other foreign tourists.
Egypt is currently struggling to overcome rising inflation and a recent currency depreciation.
The country relies heavily on tourism revenues from the Red Sea, which accounts for some 65 percent of tourists visiting the country.
The tourism industry has been battered by successive blows over the past decade, including the country’s 2011 uprising, ensuing unrest and the coronavirus pandemic.