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Civil war looms closer after Turkish air strikes in Iraqi Kurdistan

by Steve Sweeney
in Slemani

CIVIL war loomed even closer in Iraqi Kurdistan today after a series of air strikes launched by Turkey over the weekend targeted Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) positions in the mountainous border area.

Turkish warplanes struck the villages of Bepalan, Urte and Gurgames in Qandil municipality along with Seger and Gerwi villages in the Bradost region close to the Turkish border.

No casualties were reported as a result of the Turkish bombing mission which it claimed was part of operations against the PKK. 

But the villages are inhabited by thousands of agricultural workers, shopkeepers and other citizens who are subjected to daily attacks.

Turkey’s authoritarian President Recep Tayyip Erdogan insists that only terrorists reside in the mountain settlements. 

Peace campaigners in the region are warning that the risk of an intra-Kurdish civil war is growing as relations between the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and its leader Masoud Barzani and opposition parties sour.

Large anti-war demonstrations have taken place across the region. 

Both have voiced opposition to any offensive against the PKK but the KDP has mobilised thousands of peshmerga forces in a confrontational move, described by Kurdish Peace Mother Zullayxa Nuri last week as “like pouring petrol on a fire.”

KDP hostilities escalated after a US delegation visited Baghdad, Erbil and Slemani in August as it tried to shore up support for operations in Iraqi Kurdistan. 

The region is effectively divided into two spheres of influence: the KDP controls Erbil, Duhok and Zakho close to Turkey while the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) controls Slemani, Halabja and Ranya close to the Iranian border.

In September the KDP, encouraged by the US, agreed joint operations against the PKK with Iran and Turkey.

Bombs and drone attacks have continued against the civilian population in breach of international law.

KDP-controlled media organisations blame the PKK for attacks on peshmerga forces and other unsubstantiated activities as they try to sway public opinion in favour of a military offensive.

But the Iraqi Kurdistan regional government appears to have been bypassed by the KDP, being opposed to an offensive.

A source told the Star that civil war serves the interests of Turkey as Mr Erdogan wants to show the world that Kurdish people don’t deserve to run themselves.

Offensives have also taken place against Shengal, with sources in the Makhmour refugee camp telling the Star that drones and Turkish jets have been flying overhead for days.

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