Turkish troops moved further into Iraqi territory during “Operation Claw-Tiger,” while the Iraqi military denounces the move as “flagrant aggression.”
Rabat – Turkey has announced it will continue its military operations in Iraq, despite Iraqi authorities calling the Turkish incursion “flagrant aggression” and a violation of state sovereignty. The statement came from Turkey’s foreign ministry on Thursday.
After a Turkish drone strike killed two senior Iraqi officers on Tuesday, the Iraqi foreign ministry canceled a visit of Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar on Wednesday, one day before he was set to arrive in Baghdad. Instead, Iraq summoned the Turkish ambassador, with Iraq’s foreign ministry saying he would receive “a letter of protest with strong words,” according to Reuters.
The Turkish foreign ministry’s statement stressed that Ankara is prepared to cooperate with Baghdad on the issue of PKK fighters in northern Iraq. “However, in the event the PKK presence in Iraq is overlooked, our country is determined to take the measures it deems necessary for its border security no matter where it may be.”
Turkey has been sending its military deeper into Iraqi territory, as part of the “Operation Claw-Tiger” campaign against the Kurdish people in Iraq’s north it launched in June. Because Iraq has not granted permission for such an incursion, the move could be considered an invasion into Iraqi sovereign land according to international law. The fact that the operation has a stated military goal to kill PKK-aligned Iraqi citizens only deepens the flagrant disregard for Iraqi autonomy that Turkey appears to be displaying.
Iraq now faces a second unwanted foreign military force on its sovereign territory after the United States refused a formal request from Iraqi parliament to withdraw its forces in January 2020. While Iraq has been a key battleground in the standoff between the US and Iran, it has now also become involved in Turkish operations against the Kurdish people.
Turkey rejected Iraqi claims of national sovereignty, instead determining that the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), which Turkey labels a terrorist organization, also posed a military threat to Iraq. Turkish military sources did not elaborate how this would justify breaching the UN Charter. The UN Charter, in article 2, states that “all members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.”
Kurdish authorities in Iraq are represented by the Democratic Party of Kurdistan (KDP). The party opposes the Turkish presence and does not directly facilitate PKK activity. The Turkish military presence in Iraq appears to not just highlight disregard for Iraqi sovereignty, but also displays the increasingly belligerent foreign policy of Turkey.
Growing Turkish militarism has seen Turkish involvement in Syria, Libya, and now Iraq. In recent years, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has become more bold in the country’s geopolitical rivalry with the United Arab Emirates. The two states are funding opposite sides in Libya and have accused each other of propaganda campaigns in recent months.