NATO-member Turkey has controversially initiated a major bombing campaign over northern Iraq targeting Kurdish armed groups, specifically the outlawed PKK which Ankara has long said uses Iraqi territory to conduct a cross-border insurgency.
The military incursion also involves ground troops. On Tuesday evening the Turkish Defense Ministry announced the start of “Operation Tiger Claw” with the following statement: “In order to neutralize the elements of the ‘Kurdistan Workers Party’ (PKK) and other terrorist elements that threaten the security of our people and our borders, victory has reached the heroes of the commando units who are currently in the Haftanin area.”
Iraq's Ministry of Foreign Affairs - outraged at yet another violation of Iraqi sovereignty - promptly summoned the Turkish ambassador to Baghdad and lodged a memorandum of protest.
The Erdogan government, meanwhile, has claimed it's acting in 'defense' after PKK insurgents have launched repeat attacks from Iraqi and Syrian soil over the past years.
Multiple reports suggest that this particular operation is unprecedented in its scale:
Special forces were airlifted and deployed overland to the border region of Haftanin in the early hours of Wednesday for Operation Claw-Tiger. The campaign targeted 150 suspected Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK) positions and was supported by jets, helicopters, drones and artillery, the Turkish defense ministry said.
The ongoing airstrikes included attacks in and around Sinjar Mountain, where it must be remembered tens of thousands of members of the ethno-religious group, the Yazidis, took refuge from ISIS in 2014, after which a US military rescue mission ensued to protect the group. It's yet another example of local US allies coming under NATO member Turkey's bombs.
The Turkish Defense Ministry further issued the following propaganda video upon the start of "Operation Tiger Claw":
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. pic.twitter.com/hDJfsncxet— T.C. Millî Savunma Bakanlığı (@tcsavunma) June 16, 2020
The bombings have reportedly impacted Yazidi refugee camps in the area as well. Critics of this latest Turkish aggression against the Kurds and other ethnic minorities have pointed out that NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has remained silent.
Stoltenberg has in the past not only remained silent amid the pattern of Turkish cross-border attacks, but has repeatedly defended Turkey, which has the second-largest army in NATO behind the United States.
Alongside Iraq's government, the Arab League has also weighed in to condemn the new operation, which further threatens the northern Iraq border region's civilians, especially the vulnerable internally displaced refugee population (IDPs).