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Turkey, Iran and Iraq Launch First Joint Anti-PKK Operation

Turkish jets carried out airstrikes on Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) positions in northern Iraq's Asos region in coordination with Iraqi and Iranian intelligence on Monday, according to pro-government media reports in Turkey.

A Turkish General Staff statement said that the airstrikes with 30 fighters aircraft were launched in a region located 180 km south of the mountainous border with Turkey.

During the operation, which was supported by airborne warning and control planes, 41 targets were demolished, including tunnels and shelters used by the terror group, the statement said.

The Kurdistan Regional Government's referendum on Sept. 25 on independence from Iraq united the three countries in a common perception of threat. Following the Kurdish vote, Iraqi and Turkish forces conducted joint military drills on their shared border.

Ankara is concerned that the PKK may exploit a power vacuum in northern Iraq. Sharing intelligence for cross-border operations against the outlawed PKK is especially important in winter when terrorists seek refuge in northern Iraq's mountainous regions, rendering operations difficult and dangerous, according to experts.

"Such a first-ever trilateral intelligence sharing will contribute a lot to Turkey's anti-PKK terror operations," Abdullah Agar, a security expert and retired special warfare and commando officer, told Arab News. "With this operation, we have seen Turkey produce an impact in a region 180 km away from its borders thanks to cooperation with central Iraqi and Iranian authorities."

"This cooperation in identifying the locations of PKK targets and marking their coordinates is expected to grow further in the coming period," he said.

Agar noted that this tripartite cooperation also shows a determination by the Turkish state to achieve a military equilibrium on multi-fronts to compensate for its deteriorating relations with the US, which traditionally provided Turkey with intelligence on PKK hideouts in northern Iraq.

In a series of operations across Turkey and northern Iraq during October, 152 PKK terrorists were killed and 129 hideouts were destroyed.

Ali Semin, a Middle East expert at the Bilgesam think tank in Istanbul, told Arab News that Turkey's latest anti-PKK operation succeeded because Iran and Iraq have been intelligence sharing.

"It was just the beginning of these three countries boosting their counterterrorism cooperation in the near future. A joint operation with aerial attacks against PKK headquarters in northern Iraq's Qandil and Sinjar mountains may be expected in early 2018," he said.

According to Semin, as Tehran became isolated in the region because of international sanctions, it felt obliged to form a coalition with the Turkish and Iraqi central governments to preserve its regional gains.

"The region needs a collective security cooperation to defeat separatist Kurdish rebels active in these countries," he said.

The PKK and its Iranian offshoot, Kurdistan Free Life Party (PJAK), have been waging an insurgency against the Turkish and Iranian states, and both countries consider Kurdish separatism a common threat.


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