Turkey, Iran 'planning joint operation' against Kurdish forces in Iraq

Turkey, Iran 'planning joint operation' against Kurdish forces in Iraq
The neighbours are thought to be planning anti-PKK raids in Iraq, as Turkey widens its anti-Kurdish offensive.
3 min read
06 March, 2019
Turkey's tanks patrol in Manbij, northern Syria, formerly held by the Kurdish YPG [Getty]
Despite fighting on opposite sides of the Syrian war, Turkey and Iran are to carry out a joint operation against Kurdish rebels, according to Turkey's interior minister as quoted by state-run Anadolu news agency on Wednesday.

"God willing, we will carry out a joint operation against the PKK together with Iran," Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said, referring to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), whom Ankara and Western allies designate as a terror organisation.

Soylu did not specify which PKK bases the planned operation would target but President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has previously said it would be against militant hideouts in Iraq.

Turkey has already waged an offensive on the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militia in northern Syria, causing tensions with the US, who have backed the Kurdish group in the fight against the Islamic State.

Turkey has battled the PKK for decades, while the Iranian security forces have also fought its affiliate, the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK). Both groups have rear bases in neighbouring Iraq.

In 2017, Erdogan said a joint Turkish-Iranian operation against Kurdish militants was "always on the agenda".

He added that the two countries', military chiefs had discussed how to work against Kurdish militants, but Iran's Revolutionary Guards denied that at the time. 

The PKK has waged a three-and-a-half decade insurgency against the Turkish state seeking independence, and more recently autonomy, for Turkey's Kurdish minority, that has left tens of thousands dead.

The Turkish military has often bombed PKK bases in Iraq's mountainous regions. 

The Kurds, who comprise 15 to 20 percent of Turkey's population, have a long history of oppression and violence at the hands of the Turkish state, which has only got worse since the official Kurdish-Turkish conflict began in 1978.

Iraqi Kurds are granted relatively more freedoms, most of whom live in the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan.

Despite backing opposing sides in the Syrian conflict, both neighbours - which see themselves as historically powerful regional leaders - have recently been working with Syria-regime backer Russia towards a political solution to the crisis.

Turkey has also been working towards a road-map agreement with the US over the northern Syrian region of Manbij, in which it wants a full withdrawal of the YPG.

Turkey's defence chief hosted the US special envoy for Syria in Ankara on Tuesday, according to Anadolu.

Defence Minister Hulusi Akara reporetedly discussed 'safe zones' east of the Euphrates river that should be cleared of YPG forces to be secured by Turkey.

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have called for the US to scrap plans for a full withdrawal from Syria, as President Donald Trump announced in December.

The SDF say they still need support for the remaining battles against IS, but also fear hostilities from neighbouring Turkey.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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