Tensions rise between Turkey and Iran

Ankara and Tehran summon their respective ambassadors to express their disagreement over Turkish operations on Iraqi soil
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif at a press conference with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu in Istanbul, Turkey, 29 January 2021

PHOTO/Turkey's Ministry of Foreign Affairs  -   Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif at a press conference with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu in Istanbul, Turkey, 29 January 2021.

Ankara and Tehran have summoned their respective ambassadors following the escalation of tensions between the two countries. The Turkish Foreign Ministry summoned Iran's ambassador to Ankara, Muhammed Ferazmend, following comments by Iran's ambassador to Iraq, Iraj Masjedi, about the Turkish presence in northern Iraq, while the Ayatollahs' regime summoned the Turkish ambassador to Tehran, Derya Örs.

The Iranian consul in Baghdad, Iraj Masjedi, claimed that Ankara was "fighting against the PKK, whose objective is the stability, security and sovereignty of Iraq", and added that Turkey should respect Iraq's sovereignty and not carry out cross-border military operations.

"We reject military intervention in Iraq and Turkish forces should not pose a threat or violate Iraqi soil," Masjedi said. Iran does not accept "at all" any foreign military intervention or presence in Iraq, the ambassador added, "and therefore we believe that the Turks should return to their international position". Ankara, for its part, rejected Masjedi's remarks on Ferazmend's visit. According to the Turkish ministry, Iran should support Turkey in its fight against terrorism. 

Imagen de archivo facilitada por la Oficina de Prensa del Ministerio de Defensa turco el 17 de junio de 2020, muestra al ministro de Defensa turco, Hulusi Akar (Der), mirando un mapa con miembros del Mando de las Fuerzas Armadas turcas durante una reunión en el Centro de Control del Mando del Ejército en Ankara durante la operación militar apodada "Claw-Tiger" el 17 de junio de 2020
AFP/TURKISH MINISTRY OF DEFENCE - File image provided by the Turkish Defence Ministry Press Office on June 17, 2020, shows Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar (R) looking at a map with members of the Turkish Armed Forces Command during a meeting at the Army Command Control Centre in Ankara during the military operation dubbed "Claw-Tiger" on June 17, 2020.

The regime in Tehran summoned the Turkish ambassador to Tehran, Derya Örs, to the Foreign Ministry in response to Turkey. The reason for the summons was also in response to statements made by Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu in parliament. 

Soylu declared the presence of Kurdish activists in Iran. In particular, the interior minister claimed that Iran harbours a total of 525 PKK terrorists. An accusation that the Persian authorities rejected. Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh called the comments unacceptable and warned that they ran counter to cooperation efforts between the two countries.

Ankara has carried out intensive air and ground raids in northern Iraq since the summer of 2020 as part of operations Eagle Claw and Tiger Claw against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and its bases in the region, which is considered a terrorist organisation by Turkey and the European Union. 

Policías antidisturbios iraquíes protegen la Embajada de Turquía en Bagdad el 18 de febrero de 2021 tras las convocatorias en las redes sociales para concentrarse ante la Embajada turca en protesta por las promesas de Turquía de invadir el enclave noroccidental de Sinjar
AFP/AHMAD AL-RUBAYE - Iraqi riot police protect the Turkish Embassy in Baghdad on February 18, 2021 following calls on social media to rally outside the Turkish Embassy in protest at Turkey's pledges to invade the northwestern enclave of Sinjar.

These operations have provoked outrage in Baghdad over territorial violations by Turkish security forces. Ankara, however, has continued air strikes in the Iraqi Kurdistan region to disrupt the PKK organisation.

Turkey's latest incursion began on 10 February and ended four days later after 13 people were killed by the PKK. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan promised to expand operations against the organisation after the failed operation. 

Turkish authorities are mainly targeting the PKK headquarters in Qandil, and in the Iraqi region of Sinjar, where the Kurdish group gained a foothold after Daesh launched a deadly attack on the local Yazidi population in 2014. Sinjar now has its own armed forces, established at the time by the PKK.

The organisation has small base camps scattered in the mountainous, Kurdish-majority areas of eastern and southeastern Turkey. However, the main camp is in Iraq's Qandil Mountains. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), controlled by the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), wants to eliminate PKK influence over Sinjar as well as other unofficial forces in order to establish new bases against the Kurdish group. 

Turquía e Irán están adoptando cada vez más aviones no tripulados como su arma preferida contra los rebeldes kurdos en el norte de Irak, lo que hace temer por la seguridad de los civiles y aviva las tensiones geopolíticas
AFP/BIROL BEBEK - Turkey and Iran are increasingly adopting drones as their weapon of choice against Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq, raising fears for the safety of civilians and stoking geopolitical tensions.

The KDP holds the PKK responsible for civilians killed in Turkish military operations, and KDP leader Masoud Barzani has called on the Workers' Party to leave the region to avoid further escalation with Turkey in November.

"What does Sinjar have to do with Turkey?" declared Masjedi. "It has no relationship with Turkey to threaten or make a decision in this regard. Therefore, we reject any threat, whether from Turkey or any other party." Iran's ambassador to Iraq acknowledged Tehran's support for "any decision and agreement" that would contribute to the security of the Sinjar region, whose people "have suffered a lot, particularly from Daesh".

Turkey's ambassador to Baghdad, Fatih Yıldız, responded to Masjedi's comments on Twitter: "I think the Iranian ambassador should be the last person to lecture Turkey about respecting Iraq's borders. We will respond appropriately.