Water for security: Iraq-Turkey deal reveals extent of military intervention

Water for security: Iraq-Turkey deal reveals extent of military intervention
The Iraq-Turkey deal allows Turkey to militarily enter a 300km by 40km area within Iraqi territory, according to a KCK spokesperson and other Iraqi sources.
5 min read
29 April, 2024
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Baghdad on Monday, April 22, marking his first state visit to Iraq since 2011. [AFP]

The Iraqi authorities have officially approved the incursion of Turkish forces into their territory, signalling significant concessions to Turkey regarding Iraq's sovereignty and territorial integrity, a spokesperson for the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), an umbrella political organisation for the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) exclusively told The New Arab in their first reaction to the recent security deal signed between Baghdad and Ankara.  

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Baghdad on April 22, marking his first state visit to Iraq since 2011. During the visit, both countries signed a joint security agreement allowing Turkey to conduct military operations against the PKK deep within Iraqi territory. In return, Iraq will receive increased water flow from Turkey.

"The deal is an attempt by the fascist Turkish state under dictator Erdogan to get the Iraqi authorities in line with the genocidal policies of the Turkish state against the Kurds. The media fuss about the deal serves to conceal the very truth of it: The Iraqi authorities have formally approved the invasion of their land by the Turkish state; that is, they have made serious concessions to Turkey as to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq," Zagros Hiwa, spokesperson for KCK's foreign relations told TNA during an interview via email. 

"This deal equals to the invasion of Cyprus and the annexation of Syria's Iskenderun province to Turkey. The essence of the deal is to leave large swathes of Iraqi and Kurdish territory, as large as a country like Lebanon, to the Turkish invasion," he added. 

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The spokesperson also confirmed news reports that, as per the deal, Baghdad had green-lighted Ankara to launch further military aggressions inside the Iraqi territories.

"The essence of the deal is to leave large swathes of Iraqi and Kurdish territory as large as a country like Lebanon, to the Turkish invasion," Hiwa outlined. "According to this deal, Turkey would have the right to invade an area of 300 km long and 40 km wide inside the Iraqi territory. Turkey has built more than one hundred military bases in Iraqi Kurdistan."   

Hiwa also said that the primary goal of Turkey is to realise Erdogan's publicly stated Neo-Ottoman ambitions, namely the annexation of the Ottoman-era Mosul province, indicating that the deal marks a significant step toward achieving this ambition. 

Meanwhile, three Iraqi sources in Baghdad and Erbil, speaking to Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, TNA's Arabic sister website, mentioned that Erdogan returned to Ankara with Iraqi authorisation to launch a military operation against the PKK militants inside Iraq within areas where they exist in the mountains of Gara, Qandil, Sidakan, Suran, Sid Sadiq, Kani Masi, Zab and Zakho, and Amedi. The Iraqi authorisation specifies that operations should be within uninhabited areas controlled by the party or areas where the party controls and prevents the entry of Kurdish Peshmerga forces or Iraqi army forces.

Under this new agreement, Iraq will receive priority in its share of water from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Turkey will also assist Iraq in introducing modern irrigation techniques and optimising water use in agriculture.

According to Hiwa, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), the main ruling party in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and runs the foreign ministry in the Iraqi federal government, is behind the deal. 

"The KDP, which has betrayed the Kurdish cause to win Erdogan's favour, has encouraged, persuaded, and blackmailed the Iraqi authorities to do the same," the spokesperson claimed. 

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The Iraqi foreign ministry, currently headed by Fouad Hussein, a key member of the KDP, has often condemned Turkey's breach of Iraq's sovereignty and the killing of Iraqi civilians via drone attacks. However, the Iraqi federal government has yet to raise the matter with international bodies such as the UN Security Council.

Iraq's National Security Council has designated the PKK as a banned party within Iraq. 

Iraqi officials have recently said that Iraq's security forces will not engage in fighting the PKK fighters, based in the rigid mountainous areas across Iraq's borders with Turkey and Iran. However, they acknowledged that Iraq might share intelligence with Turkey. 

Answering questions of whether he thinks Iraq's security forces or the KRG peshmerga forces would be deployed to fight against the PKK, Hiwa said that the Iraqi authorities are best positioned to address this question.

"From our viewpoint, these operations are a part of the genocidal policies of the Turkish state against the Kurds, and we are determined to defend our people," he added. 

Regarding claims of negotiations between the KCK and the Turkish government, Hiwa dismissed such allegations and noted that had negotiations indeed been ongoing, Turkey would not have mobilised all its military, diplomatic, political, economic and intelligence resources to conduct an invasion operation in Iraqi Kurdistan.

A Turkish source stated to Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that military operations against the PKK in Iraq were not authorised during Erdogan's visit. Instead, Turkey aims to coordinate with Iraq for operations against the group through joint committees, focusing on securing the border with Syria and preventing the PKK from supporting the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), deemed by Turkey as an offshoot of the PKK.

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The PKK, a Kurdish guerrilla force struggling for autonomy in Turkey, was formed in the late 1970s by Ocalan. The PKK, described by Turkey, the United States, and the EU as a "terrorist" organisation, has launched an armed war against the Turkish army since 1984. 

Since April of 2022, the Turkish army has launched a cross-border incursion dubbed "Operation Claw-Lock" into northern Iraqi Kurdistan to fight PKK guerrillas. Many have been killed from both sides, and hundreds of Kurdish villagers were forced to evacuate their homes due to the ferocious fighting.

Ali al-Bandawi, a member of Iraq's parliament security and defence committee, stated that the agreements with Turkey are executable, stressing it emphasises disarming any "terrorist and insurgent groups" in northern Iraq and preventing them from launching attacks from Iraqi territories against Turkey, as well as to stopping Turkish airstrikes on Iraq, which violate its sovereignty and national security.

However, Ali al-Fatlawi, a member of the Fatah Alliance, which is part of the ruling Shiite Coordination Framework, affirmed that the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) would avoid any battle against the PKK. He stated in a press statement, "The lives of our children are precious to us, and we do not fight on behalf of the Turks or the Kurds."