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MOSCOW (UrduPoint News / Sputnik – 19th June, 2020) Turkey launched another cross-border offensive on Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq this week despite protests from Baghdad, which fears that Ankara will continue expanding its military footprint in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region.
The stated goal of the air-and-land raids is to roll back the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), blamed by Turkey for repeated attacks on its territory. Although the chances of the operation rooting out the Kurdish insurgency are slim, it once again proves that Iraq is too weak to stand up to its assertive neighbor, experts have told Sputnik.
Huseyin Bagci, the president of the Ankara-based Turkish Foreign Policy Institute, Turkey’s oldest think tank, said that Turkey will continue targeting PKK in Iraq until Baghdad takes the fight against insurgents in its own hands or sides with Turkey in clamping down on them.
“It seems that either Iraqi government will take measures to control PKK, what is nearly impossible, or Turkey will further make operations … It will not bring the end of PKK terrorism but PKK will get always answer from Turkish military,” he said.
Bagci, who is also a professor of international relations at the middle East Technical University, suggested that Iraq and Turkey should find a common strategy to counter PKK. Until then, dealing with Iraqi Kurdish militants will remain ”Turkish business.”
Turkey has a long history of military presence in northern Iraq. It established the first bases there in the mid-1990s and plans to build new facilities to add to the existing 11 bases in the area.
This is bound to raise concerns in Baghdad and Erbil, the main city of Iraqi Kurdistan. The Iraqi government has already condemned Turkish incursions as interference in the country’s sovereignty.
Gareth Jenkins, a non-resident senior research fellow with the Joint Center Silk Road Studies Program and Turkey Center at the Institute for Security & Development Policy in Stockholm, said that Turkey is moving toward the “de facto occupation” of a part of Iraq, in the same way as it has occupied parts of Syria.
“But neither the national government in Baghdad nor the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Erbil northern Iraq is strong enough militarily to oppose Turkey,” he admitted.
FROM PEACEMAKER TO INTERVENTIONIST
Turkey’s incursions in Syria, Libya and now Iraq are reinforcing its image as an interventionist in the Middle East, Gareth Jenkins said further. The current operation, he estimated, is the third time in less than six months that Turkey has started military action in an Arab-majority country.
“The current operations in northern Iraq can damage the PKK but they will not destroy it… When taken together with its actions in Syria and Libya, the current operations in Iraq will reinforce most Arab governments’ perception of Turkey as an aggressive interventionist,” he said.
The operation against PKK shows Turkey’s increasing reliance on military force to achieve its own goals, a decade after Ankara positioned itself as a force for peace and an advocate of the use of soft power, Jenkins said.
The timing of the incursions points to a possible ulterior motive, Jenkins added. Previous offensives against PKK in Iraq frequently occurred in spring or were in response to an upsurge in attacks inside Turkey. This time, the security operation is likely being used by President Tayyip Erdogan for political point scoring.
“President Erdogan is aware that his popularity rises whenever he launches military action and his propaganda outlets can portray him as protecting national security,” Jenkins opined.
Erdogan’s popularity had been in long-term decline even before the coronavirus pandemic, and the economic downturn it is expected to bring about will likely put additional downward pressure on his ratings. In this context, the timing of the raids points to domestic political considerations, although military reasons should not be excluded, the expert said.
Source : www.urdupoint.com