Turkey launched multiple offensives against Kurdish targets during the last week in Iraqi Kurdistan, as well as Kurdish-run parts of northeast Syria. A new operation was launched by Turkey on April 18 against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Metina, Zap and Avasin-Basyan in Iraqi Kurdistan, where helicopters, drones and F-16 fighters were deployed, as well as special forces and elite commando units with artillery.
The offensive, codenamed Operation Claw Lock, is the fifth such Turkish offensive against the PKK in Iraq since 2020, when Turkey launched twin offensives Claw Eagle and Claw Tiger, followed by Claw Lightning and Claw Thunderbolt in 2021. The operation was seemed to be agreed upon beforehand between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Region Masrour Barzani.
A Turkish drone strike on Wednesday killed the co-commander of U.S.-backed Kurdish militia forces and two female fighters from the Kurdish-led Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) in Kobani, located on Turkey’s border in northeast Syria. In addition, Turkish artillery wounded two civilians in Kobani on Friday, according to Al Monitor and has launched four other drone strikes toward the border region within the past ten days. Two of the strikes targeted facilities used by local security forces, according to spokesman for the Kurdish-led forces, Farhad Shami.
“The Claw operations aim to prevent the PKK militants’ movement between their bases, which spread from the Qandil Mountains on the Iraqi-Iranian border to the Syrian frontier,” Al Monitor wrote about Turkey’s offensive in Iraqi Kurdistan.
“Though Turkey has carried out numerous large and small cross-border operations into Iraq, the Claws have been increasingly ensuring that Turkey gets a permanent foothold in the region, particularly in Metina and Zap. Last year, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said that Turkey would establish a base in Metina to monitor the region and control the route to the mountains on the Iraq-Iran border, where the central command center of the PKK is based.”
The Turkish government reported that four Turkish soldiers were killed and 45 PKK members were “neutralized.” Turkish operations into Iraqi Kurdistan have managed to establish nearly 20 military outposts in northern Iraq, pushing the PKK to the south in recent years, according to Middle East Eye.
Middle East Eye further reported on Friday that sources close to the Turkish military said Turkey aims “to completely block Turkish-Iraqi border access to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) by capturing the remaining land corridor, effectively ending nearly 40 years of PKK infiltrations” into Turkey.
Iraq protested the attacks, saying that Turkey was violating its sovereignty and calling on the country to withdraw its forces and summoning the Turkish ambassador to Iraq regarding the offensive.
“The Turkish Armed Forces launched this operation to clear the areas occupied in northern Iraq from terrorists,” Erdoğan responded. “We are making every effort to contribute to the strengthening of their territorial integrity and political unity so that our neighbors can live in security and peace.”
Meanwhile, intra-Kurdish tensions are rising in northeast Syria. The offices of the Kurdistan National Congress (KNC) – which has close relations with Turkey and the Iraqi Kurdish leadership under Barzani – were attacked earlier this week. While KNC officials blamed the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and Ciwanen Soresger, a PKK-affiliated youth group for the attacks, PYD denied any involvement.
“We have no idea who is behind these attacks. Our security forces, the Asayish, have launched investigations to identify and catch the perpetrators. But we are certainly not linked to them in any way,” Salih Muslim, a senior figure of the PYD, said. He speculated that the attacks on the KNC may have been linked to the Kurdish Democratic Party’s Roj Peshmerga militia in the operation against PKK forces in Iraqi Kurdistan. His claim, however, has not been independently confirmed.
“The United States is deeply concerned by the recent attacks on several KNC offices in northeast Syria,” the U.S. embassy in Syria tweeted on Thursday. “Intimidation and violence have no place in political discourse, and we urge all parties to engage peacefully in pursuit of resolutions that benefit all concerned.”