Since joining the fight against ISIS directly, Turkey has expended much more effort in bombing Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) positions. This offensive runs at cross purposes with the strategic reliance that the U.S. led coalition has been placing on Kurdish Peshmerga units in the fight against ISIS.
Turkish jets launched their heaviest assault on Kurdish militants in northern Iraq overnight since air strikes began last week, hours after President Tayyip Erdogan said a peace process had become impossible.
The strikes hit PKK targets including shelters, depots and caves in six areas, a statement from Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s office said. A senior official told Reuters it was the biggest assault since the campaign started.
Iraq condemned the air strikes as a “dangerous escalation and an assault on Iraqi sovereignty”, saying it was committed to ensuring militant attacks on Turkey were not carried out from within its territory.
Turkey launched near-simultaneous strikes against PKK camps in Iraq and Islamic State fighters in Syria last Friday, in what Davutoglu has called a “synchronized fight against terror”.
Engaging in conflicts on two fronts is a high-risk strategy for the NATO member, leaving it exposed to the threat of reprisals by jihadists and Kurdish militants.
NATO has given full political support to Turkey’s fight against the PKK, as a rebellion stretching back to 1984 and which has seen over 40,000 die appears to be flaring back up. Recent targeted assassinations by suspected PKK have left 5 soldiers and policemen dead near the Turkey-Iraqi-Syrian border. The recent violence breaks the ceasefire that had been successfully in place since March 2013.
Some supporters of the PKK, including members of the pro-Kurdish opposition HDP party, say the offensive is an attempt by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan to crush his biggest political rivals. The HDP recently won a 13 percent minority in the parliament and Erdogan’s own party must now try and form a coalition to rule, a circumstance that no doubt irks Erdogan.
Giving additional credence to this theory is the fact that Erdogan’s AK Party is set to introduce legislation in the very near future to expel any pro-Kurdish members from parliament, which would virtually eliminate the HDP party outright.