On Tuesday, April 25th, in an unprecedented attack, Turkish warplanes bombed Kurdish militants in the Sinjar region of Iraq, at 2 a.m local time. The strike killed five Peshmerga—members of the Kurdish Regional Government involved in Iraq’s armed force—and injured nine, some critically.
Simultaneously, the Turkish government conducted an airstrike in crowded airspace over northern Syria. They targeted the headquarters, press center, liaison offices, and Voice of Rojava Radio, all belonging to the People’s Protection Units (YPG). This organization is affiliated with the PKK—the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, an undeviating adversary and listed terrorist organization of Turkey. An estimated 20 staff members working in those units were killed, and 18 were wounded.
The attacks caused widespread controversy among international spheres. Turkey’s chief of general staff office, Hulusi Akar, explained the reason for the operation in a written statement, saying, “Syria and northern Iraq are used by the PKK and its extensions to smuggle terrorists, weapons, ammunition and explosives to our country.”
Erdogan released a statement defending the airstrikes, saying, “We are obliged to take measures. We must take steps.”
Contrasting Akar’s statement, Masrour Barzani, a top Kurdish security official in the Iraqi region, said, “It was a surprise. This was the first time they have been bombing there. They had been mostly bombing border areas.” In an interview, he stated, “We asked for some clarification but have not received any answers yet. I hope on the Turkish side it was a mistake.”
Saad al-Hadithi, the Iraqi government’s spokesman, said, “The Iraqi government condemns and rejects the strikes carried out by Turkish aircraft on Iraqi territory.” Clearly, the rift between Turco-Iraqi relations has deepened further in light of these events.
The United States is also concerned with the developments of the Middle East. US state department spokesman Mark Toner said, “We are very concerned, deeply concerned that Turkey conducted air strikes earlier today in northern Syria as well as northern Iraq without proper co-ordination either with the United States or the broader global coalition to defeat [the Islamic State]. We have expressed those concerns to the government of Turkey directly.”
It is not yet clear what repercussions of the airstrikes will have, but one thing that has been made certain by Erdogan’s most recent attacks is that Turkey has not weakened its push against the PKK, nor improved relations with Iraq and Kurdistan.