Tehran strongly opposes Turkish intervention in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region, Iran’s Ambassador to Baghdad Iraj Masjedi has said, as he called on Ankara to withdraw its troops from Iraq and respect international borders.
“We reject military intervention in Iraq and Turkish forces should not pose a threat or violate Iraqi soil,” Masjedi told Rudaw. “The security of the Iraqi area should be maintained by Iraqi forces and [Kurdistan] Region forces in their area.”
Turkey has established a number of military outposts inside Iraqi territory in the Kurdistan Region since the mid-1990s to fight militants of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), increasing its cross-border footprint in recent years. Since June 2020, Turkey has launched three major air and ground operations, establishing new outposts deep inside the Kurdistan Region.
“We do not accept at all, be it Turkey or any other country to intervene in Iraq militarily or advance or have a military presence in Iraq,” Masjedi said. “Therefore we believe the Turks must return to their international position and be stationed there, and the security of Iraq be maintained by Iraqis.”
Baghdad has lodged formal protests on a number of occasions about violations of its territory by Turkish forces and aircraft, but to no avail and in recent years, Ankara has stepped up its airstrikes in the Kurdistan Region, killing top operatives of the PKK.
Turkey launched an operation on Feb. 10 to free a group of its nationals held by the PKK in the Gara mountains of Duhok province. Turkey accused the PKK of killing them, an accusation rejected by the PKK, which maintained that Turkey accidentally killed the captives when bombing the cave where they being held.
Turkey has threatened that its next operation would be in the Sinjar area to clear it of a Yazidi militant group established with the help of the PKK in the aftermath of the genocidal attack of ISIS in August 2014.
“What has Sinjar got to do with Turkey?” Ambassador Masjedi said. “This is an internal matter and the Iraqis themselves must resolve this issue ... It has no bearing on Turkey to threaten or make a decision on this. Therefore, we reject any threat, be it from Turkey or any other side.”
When asked about last year’s agreement between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the federal government in Baghdad over Shingal, Masjedi said that if it provides security and services to the long-suffering people of the area, then Tehran would support it.
“People from this area and other areas have suffered a lot, in particular from Daesh [ISIS] ... Any decision and agreement that contributes towards this issue [providing services and security] then the Islamic Republic … supports it," he said.
Turkey summons envoy
Shortly after the interview, Turkey on Feb. 28 summoned Ambassador Mohammad Farazmand to express the country's rejection of the accusations leveled by Iran's envoy in Baghdad.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry said that Ankara is fighting the PKK, which targets Iraq's stability, security and sovereignty. Ankara also told Farazmand that it expects Iran to support, not oppose, Turkey's fight against the PKK.