Iraq condemns Turkish cross-border operations against PKK
Iraq's objection to Turkish violations of its sovereignty will have little impact on cross-border operations against the PKK, analysts say.
By SES Türkiye -- 19/07/12
In another sign of deteriorating relations, Iraq warned Turkey on Tuesday (July 17th) over violations of its territory and airspace in response to repeated cross-border Turkish military operations against PKK hideouts in northern Iraq over the past month.
"The Iraqi government condemns these violations of Iraq's airspace and sovereignty and warns Turkey against any violations of Iraq's airspace and territory," Iraq's government spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh said on Tuesday (July 17th) after a cabinet meeting, threatening that the Foreign Ministry could take the matter to the UN Security Council.
Tuesday's announcement highlights the increasing rift between Ankara and Baghdad, but analysts say Iraq's threats will not limit the Turkish military freehand to combat the PKK in northern Iraq.
"This statement will have little impact on Turkey's cross-border PKK raids and are more an attempt to flex Baghdad's muscle, and verbally retaliate for Turkish-Erbil energy deals than a real attempt to check Turkey's military interventions," Denise Natali, a Kurdish expert at the National Defense University told SES Türkiye.
The Iraqi central government has strongly objected to Turkish oil deals with the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). In May, Turkey and the KRG announced possible plans to develop an oil pipeline to Turkey, effectively bypassing the central government in Baghdad.
Last Friday (July 13th) Turkey's Energy Minister Taner Yildiz announced Turkey started importing 5 to 10 truck tankers of Kurdish oil per day and that the number could increase up to 100-200 tankers. The oil is processed into diesel and exported back to the Iraqi Kurds.
The Iraqi government called the imports "illegal" and said it would harm bilateral relations, but Turkish officials said they would continue. Baghdad and the autonomous Kurdish region have been at odds for years over a national hydrocarbon law to govern the exploration and export of Iraq's energy resources.
Once close ties between Turkey and Iraq started to sour in 2010 after Turkey backed the Sunni and secular Shi'a Iraqiyya bloc against Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Relations cooled further in December after Iraq’s fugitive Sunni vice-president, Tariq al-Hashemi, faced with charges of running death squads, fled to Turkey. In April, Maliki described Turkey as a "hostile state".
Nihat Ali Ozcan, an analyst at the Economic Policy Research Centre in Ankara, told SES Türkiye that despite Iraq's threats the country doesn't have the military capacity to prevent Turkey from continuing military operations against the PKK.
"[The Iraqi government] can only turn this into a topic of diplomatic discussion, for example at the UN," he said. "On the other hand, the goal is create a psychological effect and send a message to [Turkish Prime Minister] Erdogan."
The latest statement against cross-border operations comes as Turkey has backed the KRG and Iraqi Sunnis in their attempt to prevent Maliki's increasing consolidation of power, David Romano, a professor of Middle East politics and author of The Kurdish Nationalist Movement: Opportunity, Mobilization and Identity, told SES Türkiye.
"What he gets from these demands is the image of standing up as both an Iraqi nationalist and a protector of Kurds, while the KRG stands idly by and allows Turkey to conduct its operations in Iraqi Kurdistan," he said. Such rhetoric helps Maliki by making "[KRG President] Barzani look like a tool of foreign powers."
But Romano said that "Maliki can't, and doesn't want to, enforce his demands".