The Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Turkey has reported on the progress of the Tiger Claw military operation against the Kurds in northern Iraq. As reported by the Turkish Anadolu agency with reference to the military department, Turkish special forces are destroying enemy targets in the Haftanin area. In total, about 150 such goals have been eliminated at the moment. As part of the operation, the Turkish side uses the Storm self-propelled artillery mounts and anti-aircraft missile systems.

On its Twitter, the Turkish defense department said the republic’s air force attacked Kurdish targets in a designated area of ​​Iraq. As stated in Ankara, the operation is carried out to neutralize the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a terrorist organization recognized by the Turkish authorities.

Halkımızın ve hudutlarımızın güvenliğini tehdit eden PKK ve diğer terörist unsurları etkisiz hale getirmek maksadıyla; Hava Kuvvetleri, ateş destek vasıtaları, ATAK Helikopterleri, İHA ve SİHA'larla desteklenen Komandolarımız, hava hücum harekâtıyla bölgeye intikal etmişlerdir.

- TC Millî Savunma Bakanlığı (@tcsavunma) June 16, 2020

The strikes are carried out within the framework of the operation launched by the Turkish Armed Forces “Tiger Claw”, which was reported by the Ministry of Defense of the Republic. According to the ministry, the operation was a response to the increasing attempts of PKK militants to attack Turkish police stations and areas of military bases and is carried out in accordance with the country's right to self-defense.

Formal outrage

Earlier, Turkey conducted Operation Eagle Claw in northern Iraq, during which dozens of Kurdish targets were destroyed by airstrikes. The Turkish Ministry of Defense announced the start of this campaign on June 15, 2020. As specified, the operation was carried out in areas of deployment of the PKK bases.

The Turkish invasion of the Republic of Iraq condemned the Arab world. The League of Arab States (LAS) protested against the actions of the Turkish side. As the Arab League General Secretary Ahmed Aboul Gheit stated, the Turkish military invasion under the pretext of persecuting PKK members is a violation of Iraq's sovereignty, a manifestation of Ankara’s ignoring of international law and its relations with neighboring countries.

Turkey’s military intervention on the territory of the Arab countries - Iraq, Syria and Libya - is alarming to the Arab states and reflects the expansionist ambitions of Ankara, the origins of which lie in long history, the Arab League believes.

  • LAS Secretary General Ahmed Abu Al-Gate
  • Reuters
  • © Mohamed Abd El Ghany

Official Baghdad also reacted to the actions of Ankara. The Iraqi Foreign Ministry called on June 16 the Turkish ambassador to the country Fatih Yildiz to express concern about the actions of the Turkish side and to hand a letter of protest to the Turkish diplomat.

The Iraqi government’s message condemns “attacks on the inviolability and sovereignty of Iraq and its airspace”, and also states that such steps are contrary to international conventions, relevant international law, friendly relations, principles of good neighborliness and mutual respect.

“In a letter, the ministry again called on Turkey to cease unilateral military operations and expressed the readiness of the Iraqi government to cooperate in controlling border security while respecting the interests of both sides,” the message quoted on the website of the Iraqi Foreign Ministry.

According to the Turkish Daily Sabah, the Turkish ambassador to Iraq Fatih Yildiz, commenting on the situation with the Turkish operation, expressed regret that the Iraqi authorities have not yet taken concrete steps to terminate the presence of the PKK in the country.

According to experts, despite the protest, the official Baghdad’s reaction to Ankara’s actions was still quite mild. According to Yulia Kudryashova, a senior fellow at the Center for Euro-Atlantic Security at the Institute for International Studies at MGIMO, it can be assumed that Turkey gave Iraqi authorities guarantees that the civilian population would not suffer.

“In addition, the federalthe Iraqi government has little control over the situation in Kurdish autonomy and is in confrontation with it. As for the LAS reaction, it can be explained by the fact that Turkey’s relations with the Arab countries have intensified, ”the expert noted in an interview with RT.

According to Yulia Kudryashova, Turkey is now competing with Saudi Arabia for influence in Syria, since Riyadh supports Syrian Sunnis, as well as the UAE, after the Turkish side did not join the blockade of Qatar.

“Moreover, Turkey managed to establish relations with the government of Faiz Saraj in Libya, here Ankara also bypassed the Arab countries,” the expert added.

  • Turkish special forces

According to the political scientist-orientalist, associate professor of the RSUH Sergey Seryogichev, official Baghdad is even partially interested in Turkey conducting an operation in Iraqi Kurdistan.

"Pressure from Turkey does not allow Erbil to finally go into" free swimming. " Do not forget that it is in this region that rich oil fields are located. But Baghdad on its own cannot keep autonomy under its control. Therefore, the condemnation addressed to Ankara is more of a formal nature, ”the expert said in an interview with RT.

"A very old story"

It should be noted that this is far from the first military operation that Turkey is conducting in Iraq against members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party in recent years.

So, in May 2019, the Turkish military launched Operation Claw - 1 in the Iraqi Hakurk region. In July, the operation was expanded and received the name "Claw - 2", in August, the Turkish military moved to the third phase of the attack on the Kurdish positions under the name "Claw - 3" in the Sinat-Haftanin area. As stated in Ankara then, the purpose of the force was to ensure security on the Turkish border.

Even earlier, in March 2019, a joint Iranian-Turkish operation in the border region against members of the PKK took place. And in 2016, the Turkish Air Force attacked PKK positions in northern Iraq.

The struggle of the Turkish authorities with the PKK has more than one decade. The founder of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, Abdullah Ocalan, has been serving a life sentence in a Turkish prison since 1999. However, despite this, the party continues to act, periodically making attacks and attacks against government officials.

  • Demonstrators with flags in support of Abdullah Ocalan, Istanbul
  • Reuters
  • © Murad Sezer

PKK was founded in 1978. The organization’s goal was to awaken Kurdish national identity and create Kurdish autonomy within Turkey. These aspirations were a response to the policy pursued by the Turkish authorities to erase the identity of small peoples and the social problems of the Kurdish community. At the same time, the founders of the PKK did not seek to bet on the cultivation of radical Kurdish nationalism, but tried to present an equal society as a guideline.

However, in its struggle, the PKK resorted not only to peaceful methods. The organization launched a guerrilla campaign against Turkey back in the late 1980s. At the same time, Syria acted as a base for the PKK detachments - the authorities of the republic agreed to let Kurdish rebels enter their territory.

Subsequently, the PKK developed a network of cells in other countries, and also established stable funding for its activities through donations from Kurdish businessmen from around the world.

The PKK's partisan actions eventually triggered Ankara’s reaction, which sent a 50,000-strong military group to the Syrian border to respond to the Kurds. As a result, under pressure from Turkey, the Syrian authorities were forced to deny Ocalan refuge in Syrian territory.

Today, PKK forces are dispersed in the region. According to, for example, the Turkish side, the Syrian Democratic Forces operating in Syria have close ties with the party and its military wing. It should be noted that earlier Ankara conducted a series of military operations in the territory of the SAR, directed against the military-political structures of the Kurds, such as the People’s Self-Defense Units (Yekîneyên Parastina Gel, YPG).

The PKK operates on the territory of Turkey itself. In January 2020, Turkish security forces conducted an operation against an organization banned in the country, similar "counter-terrorism" campaigns were carried out earlier.

The PKK also has units in Iraqi Kurdistan, although it is not part of the parliament and autonomy government. According to researchers, it was Iraqi Kurdistan that, since its inception in the early 1990s, has become the main bridgehead for the PKK, allowing the organization to increase activity along the Turkish border.

Ankara could not respond to these attacks, and in 2007 the Turkish parliament authorized the first major anti-terrorist operation in northern Iraq. However, the Turkish military has finally failed to deal with the PKK until now - Ankara’s military operations alternate with terrorist attacks carried out by the Kurdish organization in Turkey.

“The confrontation between the PKK and Turkey is a very long history. Speaking generally about the Kurds, they have long been fighting for independence from Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran, and in many respects these aspirations are supported by the United States, the Americans even developed a plan for a "Greater Middle East" in which Kurdistan should gain independence . On the other hand, the struggle is waged by the Turkish authorities. Kurds cannot write their own nationality in the passport, for a long time there was a ban on the use of the Kurdish language, ”Yulia Kudryashova explained.

The expert recalled that, as part of the course on Turkey’s integration into the EU, relief was provided to the Kurds. However, the crisis in Turkish-European relations led to the curtailment of this policy and indirectly provoked an aggravation of the Kurdish-Turkish conflict.

Fight as far as possible

Recently, Kurdish attacks on Turkish territories bordering Iraq have become more frequent, and police and military have come under attack. This is what provoked Ankara to conduct new operations in Iraq, said Yulia Kudryashova.

“In addition, Turkey managed to push back the Kurds in Syria thanks to an agreement with Russia. Ankara believes that the Syrian Kurds are closely linked to the PKK and are working alongside Kurdish terrorists based in Iraq. Stabilization of the situation in the SAR allowed Turkey to turn its attention to Iraqi Kurdistan, ”the expert added.

  • Kurdish fighters (YPG) in Syria
  • Reuters
  • © Osman Orsal

At the same time, the Turkish operation will not have any serious consequences for stability in the region, Kudryashova is sure.

“Such operations were repeated many times, and the world community got used to them. Usually these are rather short-term operations that do not flow into large-scale operations, ”the expert added.

A similar point of view is shared by Sergey Seregichev. According to the expert, the struggle between Turkey and the Kurds was protracted due to the fact that the PKK enjoys wide support among the Kurds living in Turkey. And when the Turkish military strikes the Kurdistan Workers' Party, this only leads each time to a greater consolidation of the Kurdish community around the party.

“The PKK fights with the Turkish army as far as possible, then they go on negotiations to restore forces, and then everything is repeated. The current aggravation will not destabilize the region if Ankara limits itself to a standard operation. The Turkish authorities will not agree to unleash a large-scale campaign against Kurds in the Middle East, because this could destabilize the situation inside the republic. By and large, the current Kurdish-Turkish conflict is insoluble, it will last for decades, ”the expert summed up.