Alwaght- 20 days after Turkey’s latest assault on northern Iraq, the Turkish troops continue their operations in this part of the country.
The new wave of the Turkish army’s attacks on the Iraqi north started on June 15 under the Operation Eagle Claw, with commandos deployed to Haftanin region.
Also, on June 17, Operation Tiger Claw, which is in fact the second phase of the earlier operation, was launched by the Turkish government.
Nearly three weeks after the operation was commenced under the excuse of countering the security threats of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) from the northern Iraqi borders, the Iraqi government in a firm stance called on Ankara to end its violations against the Iraqi sovereignty.
The Turkish countering of the PKK in northern Iraq dates back to the years that followed 1983, the year Turkey reached an agreement with then Iraqi President Saddam Hussein according to which the Turkish forces could chase the militants 20 kilometers into the Iraqi territory. The agreement stood until 1991, the year it was unilaterally scrapped by the Baathist regime.
However, the Turkish incursions continued during the 1990s and also after the US toppled the Baathist dictatorship in 2003. Turkey set up several military bases in the Iraqi border regions. Although there are no accurate figures about the Turkish military bases and posts in northern Iraq, reports suggest that the country is operating some 19 bases in the Kurdish region. In the Kani Masi region in Duhok province, Turkey operates its biggest military base on the Iraqi soil, housing some 1,500 troops and intelligence officers along with their armored vehicles. It has a runway too. It is located 10 kilometers from the shared border. The most important base is “Bamarni” in Duhok’s north.
Now the question is that what means does the central government along with the Kurdish region have to stop the Turkish attacks? What strategy should they adopt in response? Baghdad and Erbil have ahead three measures to take:
Coordination and cooperation between Baghdad and Erbil
A big part of the Turkish influence and intervention in northern Iraq under the cover of fighting the PKK is motivated by the wrong policies adopted by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) especially after 2003.
The Kurds just contrary to Iraq’s national constitution prevented the Iraqi military from entry to the northern regions all these years. But now as the spokesman to the Iraqi Foreign Ministry Ahmad al-Sahaf said on July 3, the Iraqi forces are deploying to the border regions with Turkey.
The deployment, very likely following a deal between Baghdad and Erbil, can mark a positive development in the Iraqi political arena as the Kurds and the central government have concluded that to secure national sovereignty and check the Turkish expansionism they first need to unite and then deploy the army forces in the border regions with Turkey to stop Ankara’s illegitimate measures.
This approach should be followed by the Kurds at a wider level, allowing the central government forces to spread in a wider range on the border with Turkey.
Using economic tools against Turkey
Moreover, the most important instrument in Baghdad’s hands to respond to the Turkish military violations is the economic instrument. Iraq is one of the most important markets for Turkish goods. The Turkish-Iraq trade in 2019 grew 2.8 percent compared to the year before, reaching $15.8 billion. In 2018, their trade was about $13 billion.
Such a huge trade volume, the large part of which is the Turkish exports to the Kurdish region and other parts of Iraq, is of undeniable significance for Ankara and President Recept Tayyip Erdogan. Cutting off this trade or decreasing it can send a big warning to Ankara. In fact, by finding replacements to the Turkish goods, Baghdad and Erbil can use trade as a major pressure tool against Turkey.
Taking the Turkish incursions to the UN’s Security Council
Although the Iraqi foreign ministry over the past few weeks filed a complaint against the Turkish violation of its national territories with the UNSC, it seems that Baghdad’s lobbying and pressure in New York have not yielded the favored results yet.
In such a situation, the Iraqi foreign ministry should take a more active role towards a UNSC resolution against the Turkish violations. Having in mind that Turkey has no legitimate grounds for its invasion, Baghdad will have a bigger chance of condemning Ankara in international organizations.