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SERWAN ZANGANA: Turkish Attacks On Iraq Will Continue As Region Remains Unstable

Turkey’s attack on the City of Sulaimaniyah, in the Kurdistan region of Iraq in April was not a surprise for the region or the central Iraqi government. It is the result of an ongoing conflict between Turkey and the Kurdistan Labor Party (PKK), which traces back to 1984. As the PKK fights for Kurdish autonomy in Turkey, the Turkish government opposes such a political system. 

However, the PKK has established its bases in Kurdistan-Iraq to launch attacks against the Turkish military and afterward retreat back to the region. Iraqi Kurdistan has thus become a haven for the PKK. It is necessary to understand the complexity of the situation of Kurds in Iraq and Turkey as they belong to the same ethnicity but have two different political statuses. 

The Kurds in Iraq have formed a regional government while in Turkey they are still fighting for autonomy. Therefore, by using the Iraqi Kurdistan region as a haven, the PKK jeopardizes the security of Kurds in Iraq. However, people in Kurdistan-Iraq do not share the same opinion toward the PKK. While some Kurds emotionally support the PKK, others oppose them.  

Turkey’s excuse  for its military operations in Kurdistan-Iraq is that they consider the PKK to be a terrorist group. Turkish troops move freely in Northern Iraq and bomb the villages and the cities without regard to Iraqi sovereignty.

Obviously, Turkey’s position is to protect its stability and thus they aim to push the PKK threat further away. Regardless of the legitimacy of either side, the obligation of the Turkish government is to provide security for its citizens. But the question is: can Turkey prevent Kurdish casualties in Iraq?

Answering this question can bring a lot of debates. 

However, it is a difficult and dangerous situation for Kurdish civilians in the region. Clearly, as Turkey does not regard the sovereignty of Iraq, neither the regional government of Kurdistan nor the central Iraqi government has the power to stop Turkey from pushing its troops into Iraq and bombing the region.

Turkey is a powerful country in the region because it has been a NATO member since 1952 and has the second largest military, and undoubtedly, it has a firm grip on many situations. But the political instability in the region has put Turkey in a different position because it is now intervening in countries like Iraq and Syria, and sending its troops to attack the PKK across the border. In fact, the PKK poses a serious threat to the security of Turkey and that is why it has been a major target of the Turkish military.

Ironically, as the PKK has been on the U.S terrorist group list since 1997, the Kurdish groups in Syria that are affiliated with the PKK are U.S allies and operate jointly against ISIS. However, the U.S generally refrains from involvement in Turkey’s intervention and military operations in Iraq. 

It is important to understand that, despite the U.S’s condemnation of civilian casualties as the result of Turkey’s attacks on the PKK in Kurdistan-Iraq, the U.S will not take steps to stop the violence It is noteworthy that Turkey has launched attacks on the Americans’ Kurdish allies in Syria in the past as well.

Clearly, Turkey has great influence in the Middle East  and is a long term U.S ally. Under no circumstances will the U.S  jeopardize its relationship and interest with Turkey in exchange for helping an unstable and weak Iraqi government or their temporary Kurdish allies in Syria. Therefore, Turkish  attacks will continue and the situation in the volatile region will not be improved.  

Serwan Zangana supported Operation Iraqi Freedom as a U.S Army translator before coming to the U.S from Kurdistan, Iraq in 1997 to seek political asylum. He was granted asylum status and years later proudly became a U.S citizen. He currently serves as a correction officer in Roanoke.

 

 

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