Ankara launched an offensive in the mountainous Hakurk region on May 27. Here’s what you need to know.
Targeting the PKK
The campaign, dubbed Operation Claw, is targeting one of the PKK’s bases in Iraq’s mountainous Hakurk region, according to the Turkish foreign ministry.
It is believed that some of the PKK’s top leadership is based in the area or nearby.
The group is designated as a terror group by Turkey, the EU and the US, and has been waging a terror campaign against the Turkish state for more than 30 years, bearing responsibility for the deaths of nearly 40,000 people.
Turkish artillery shelling and air strikes destroyed shelters, caves, and ammunition depots belonging to the organisation and so far neutralised 15 members of the terror group.
The PKK has at least seven bases in Iraq and Turkey has conducted operations targeting these bases in the past.
Due to the mountainous terrain, previous campaigns were limited to aerial offensives. However, this time, Turkish commandos on the ground participated in the operation.
Turkish fears of the PKK spreading
The PKK’s leadership is mainly based in Iraq’s Qandil mountains, which have symbolic importance for the group. The PKK attacks, including car bombs and suicide attacks in urban Turkey, were directed from the headquarters
Last November, the US announced that it had put a combined bounty of $12m on the heads of three key PKK leaders who played a major part in the terror organisation’s indiscriminate attacks on civilians and security personnel. Turkey welcomed the move, but also criticised the US for arming the YPG, the PKK’s Syrian affiliate at the same time.
In Syria, the US has been supporting the YPG since Daesh made large territorial gains in 2014. In 2015, the US established the YPG-dominated SDF to fight against Daesh, despite its NATO ally Turkey’s concerns about its southern border. The SDF took ownership of the areas that it captured from Daesh.
The Turkish military launched two operations in northern Syria to protect its southern border from the YPG: Operation Euphrates Shield in 2016 and Operation Olive Branch in 2018.
Iran is cooperating with Turkey this time
The Hakurk and Qandil regions are located at the Iranian border with Iraq. In the past, the members of the group were able to cross the border with Iran whenever Turkish operations targeted the PKK bases. But this time, Iran is fully cooperating with Turkey, political analyst Hakki Ocal told TRT World.
Ocal also said Turkey is using domestically manufactured weapons and hardware for the first time.