Muslim Times(Web Desk) – Turkey says the country’s launching of a military operation against purported positions of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Iraq’s northern monotonous region of Qandil is only a matter of time.
“Qandil is not a distant target for us anymore. Right now, a lot of positions have been seized there (by Turkish forces), especially in the northern Iraq region,” said Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu in a televised interview with Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency on Monday, adding, “Timing is what is important for us right now.”
He further said that Turkish forces had already secured key areas along Qandil-Hakurk line in northern Iraq, assuring the Turkish nation that “Qandil will be a secure place for Turkey soon. No one should doubt that.”
The Qandil Mountains are located roughly 40 kilometers southeast of the Turkish border in Iraq’s Erbil province. Ankara believes the rugged region is being used as the headquarters of the PKK.
Turkey has conducted frequent airstrikes against PKK targets in northern Iraq. It previously carried out cross-border operations in the region in the 1990s and 2000s.
Back in late 2015, tensions ran high between Baghdad and Ankara when Turkey deployed 150 heavily armed soldiers backed by 20 to 25 tanks to the Bashiqa military base in Iraq’s northern province of Nineveh, where it claimed it was training Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters battling the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group.
A shaky ceasefire between Ankara and the PKK that had stood since 2013 was declared null and void by the militants in 2015 in the wake of a large-scale Turkish military campaign against the group.
In late March, Ankara also said that it had begun operations against Kurdish forces in Iraq’s Sinjar region, despite Iraq’s announcement that no foreign forces had crossed the border into the country. A few days later, Iraq also started deploying forces in Sinjar region.
Separately, the Turkish government carried out the so-called Operation Euphrates Shield against purported targets of the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group in northern Syria between August 2016 and March 2017, and launched the ongoing Olive Branch offensive against the purported positions of the US-backed People’s Protection Units (YPG) Kurdish militia in Syria’s western enclave of Afrin earlier this year.
Ankara considers the YPG as a terror group and as the Syrian branch of the PKK. Both offensives were conducted in flagrant defiance of Damascus.
Earlier this year, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had threatened to push its Afrin offensive against the YPG militants eastward to Manbij, another Syrian city in the northern province of Aleppo, where US forces are stationed, risking confrontation between the NATO allies.