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The importance of military cooperation between Turkey and Iran against the PKK

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Turkey and Iran have confirmed for the first time that they are coordinating militarily against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and its Iranian affiliate, the Kurdistan Free Life Party (PJAK).

In a joint statement, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani both stressed the onus of both countries to make full use of existing cooperation mechanisms against the activities of PKK / PJAK elements and other organizations. terrorists along common borders as well as take coordinated measures for results-oriented cooperation, including joint operations, in the fight against terrorism and organized crime.

The joint statement is significant. In recent years, and on more than one occasion, Turkey has claimed that it is coordinating military operations against the PKK with Iran to have Tehran publicly deny that this is the case.

Iran carried out cross-border artillery strikes against PJAK in parallel with Turkish anti-PKK operations in Iraqi Kurdistan. It did so, for example, in mid-June, when Turkey launched operations Claw Eagle and Claw Tiger.

Barely a day after the joint statement was issued, Iran again shelled alleged PKK / PJAK positions in Iraqi Kurdistan.

The PKK and PJAK use the Iraqi Kurdish mountain Qandil and its caves as both headquarters and sanctuary for their respective campaigns against Turkey and Iran.

With Turkey and Iran now having officially declared that they are coordinating their operations against the PKK / PJAK, will anything tangibly change on the ground?

Iran and Turkey share a similar national security imperative of seeking to prevent the establishment of an autonomous Kurdish state within or around their borders, hence silent cooperation against the PKK and its affiliates, presumably for Most of the intelligence exchange, has been going on for years, Emily Hawthorne, the A Middle East and North Africa analyst at Stratfor, a RANE company, told Ahval.

What is unique about this recent joint statement, Hawthorne said, is that Iran has finally decided to go public with its ad hoc military cooperation with Turkey.

This means that we should expect more public tactical military-military coordination, she said. Iran has carried out bombings on militant Kurdish targets in the region in previous years and such actions are again expected.

Nicholas Heras, director of government relations at the Institute for the Study of War, summed up the deal by saying that Turkey and Iran have said aloud the calm part, namely that they are cooperating against the PKK for years.

Key to the deal, Heras told Ahval, is the Iraqi Kurdish authorities who have long been drawn into the Turkish and Iranian spheres of influence simultaneously.

He stressed that Ankara and Turkey had worked hard to create flexible local partners in Iraqi Kurdistan who would adhere to, and even support Turkish and Iranian military operations against the PKK.

Heras described the Iraqi Kurds as the main silent partners in this deal.

Gne Murat Tezcr, Jalal Talabani Chair in the Kurdish Political Studies Program at the University of Central Florida, pointed out that while Turkey and Iran are rivals in Syria, Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan, they also succeed to compartmentalize the zones where they have divergent interests compared to the zones. they have common ground.

The coordinated opposition of the two countries to the referendum on the independence of Iraqi Kurdistan in 2017 is a prime example.

On the issue of the PKK and the PJAK, Turkey and Iran share certain common interests. That being said, Tezcr stressed that Iran is more comfortable than Turkey with the PJAK status quo that has existed since 2011 when the group declared a unilateral end to its armed campaign against Tehran.

On the one hand, Iran would be content with increasing Turkish pressure and operations against PKK units in Iraqi Kurdistan, which would also have had adverse effects on the PJAK, Tezcr told Ahval.

On the other hand, Iran is also concerned about the growing Turkish military presence in Iraqi Kurdistan, which increased dramatically over the summer shortly after the launch of Claw Eagle / Claw Tiger, especially in areas controlled by the ‘Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).

The PUK has traditionally been closer to Tehran than the Kurdistan Democratic Party (PDK), which controls Iraqi Kurdistians in the west and has closer ties to Ankara.

Based on this dualistic dynamic, my reading of recent developments (there has been a lot of similar news about proposed Turkish-Iranian operations since the 1990s) is that Turkey urges Iran to allay its concerns in this regard, Tezcr said. I would be surprised to see any major operation coming from the Iranian side other than routine bombardments and artillery strikes.

He concluded by noting that with winter fast approaching, the window of opportunity for any major land foray is rather limited.



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