Ankara’s Fourth War Front: Turkish Soldiers Killed in New Iraq Offensive

Rick Rozoff
https://www.middleeasteye.net/sites/default/files/styles/article_page/public/images-story/turkish%20embassy%20iraq%202021%20afp.jpg?itok=b4HgFok4Iraqi riot police protect the Turkish embassy in Baghdad

As long as Turkey serves as NATO’s bulwark against Russia – and Iraq, Syria and Iran – its gross violations of international law and its military aggression from North Africa to the Caucasus are overlooked. Overlooked by the Russian government as well as the U.S. and NATO it needs to be pointed out.

While Turkey’s president and foreign minister recently pledged support for the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of former Soviet republics-cum-nations, Ankara continues to flagrantly violate those of no fewer than four other countries.

Today the nation’s leading newspaper, Hürriyet, reported that two Turkish soldiers were killed in Iraq in what was routinely termed a cross-border anti-terror operation in the north of the country. As though Turkey reserves the right to wage armed incursions into neighboring countries that is denied the other nations of the world. The excuse for the latest raids, part of the Turkish military’s ongoing Operations Pençe-Şimşek (Clawed Lightening) and Pençe-Yıldırım launched last week, was that the Turkish troops violating the border of sovereign Iraq were attacking forces of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The same excuse, that of combating the PKK and affiliated groups, is used to excuse Turkey’s invasion and occupation of northeastern Syria since 2014, including its so-called Operation Peace Spring of 2019.

Turkey’s armed attacks inside Iraq go back to 2007 with an attack that included the participation of 50 fighter jets. In 2008 Ankara launched Operation Sun with as many as 10,000 troops. That operation, like the one in Syria, was preceded by aerial bombardments.

Last week Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar spoke with commanders of Operations Claw-Lightning and Claw-Yıldırım from the Land Forces Command Operations Center to announce the current offensive, which began on April 23. He said that armored vehicles, warplanes, drones and attack helicopters were being employed and boasted that, “Domestic and national ammunition is used at the maximum rate in the operations,” adding “I kiss the foreheads of all my guns and colleagues….” His claims included hitting 460 targets inside Iraq.

Today’s Hürriyet confirms a total of three Turkish soldiers killed so far in the invasion. No numbers were released for Iraqis killed in Ankara’s offensive.

This is occurring as NATO is taking over training and other military missions in Iraq from the American military. There will soon be as many as 5,000 NATO troops and as few as 500 U.S. ones there. NATO has never objected, as Washington has never objected, to Turkey’s military aggression in Iraq, Turkey, Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh/Armenia. Even as both threaten Russia daily over territories they claim belong to Ukraine and Georgia.

In fact earlier this month General Tod Wolters, both commander of U.S. European Command and NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe, while testifying before the House Armed Services Committee, said this about Washington’s and NATO trusted ally:

Turkey remains a strategic U.S. Ally, critical to NATO and U.S. interests in Europe, Eurasia, North Africa, and the Middle East.
Ankara continues to view the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK), the Democratic Union Party (PYD), and Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) as security threats.
Turkey retains a pivotal role in countering Russia.

The last point is the all-important one. As long as Turkey serves as NATO’s bulwark against Russia – and Iraq, Syria and Iran – its gross violations of international law and its military aggression from North Africa to the Caucasus are overlooked. Overlooked by the Russian government as well as the U.S. and NATO it needs to be pointed out.