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Turkey Launches Military Incursion Into Northern Iraq Against Kurdish Rebels

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, right, and Chief of Staff Gen. Yasar Guler wearing face masks to protect against the coronavirus, monitor the operation at a military headquarters in Ankara, June 15, 2020

The Turkish military has deployed commandos in northern Iraq to target Kurdish rebel bases.

The Defense Ministry said June 17 special forces were transported by air, backed by attack helicopters and armed drones as part of Operation Tiger-Claw.

The operation was conducted in Iraq’s Haftanin region, several kilometers from the Turkish border.

The cross-border operation comes after Turkey on June 15 launched airstrikes on the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) headquarters in Kandil as well as bases in Sinjar and Hakurk.

In response, Iraq summoned Turkey’s ambassador to protest.

Rudaw, a Kurdish media outlet in Iraq, reported on June 16 that Iranian artillery hit Kurdish rebel positions in northern Iraq near the Haji Omran border crossing in what may have been a rare coordinated move with Turkey.

It was unclear what Kurdish rebel group was hit, but the area is near PKK headquarters in Kandil and mountainous PKK guerrilla outposts.

In recent years, the PKK has drawn hundreds of Iranian Kurds to join its guerrilla forces.

The PKK -- which is recognized by Turkey, the United States, and European Union as a terrorist organization – has conducted a nearly four-decade war against the Turkish state demanding greater Kurdish rights that has claimed some 40,000 lives.

It has armed and political wings in Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria as well as hundreds of thousands of supporters in the Kurdish diaspora in Europe.

Turkey regularly carries out military operations against the PKK in southeast Anatolia and has launched dozens of cross-border operations against the PKK in Iraq over the years, often during the summer fighting season.

The Turkish military has also carried out three operations against Syrian Kurdish forces controlling swaths of northern Syria that Ankara says are controlled by the PKK.