Iraqi commander calls for sending troop to the north 'to expel' Turkish forces

Iraqi commander calls for sending troop to the north 'to expel' Turkish forces
5 min read
27 July, 2022
The UNSC late on Monday condemned the deadly Zakho attack "in the strongest terms" and expressed its "support for the Iraqi authorities in their investigations", urging Turkey to cooperate.
This picture taken from a village near the town of Deraluk in the Dohuk governorate of Iraq's Kurdistan region, shows a plume of smoke billowing over the mountains of Matin near the border with Turkey, after a Turkish air strike. [Getty]

The Chief of Staff of the Iraqi Army, Lieutenant General Abdul Amir Rashid Yarallah, on Sunday called for sending troops to the northern Iraqi borders with Turkey in the Duhok province where Turkish shelling on 20 July left nine civilians killed and 23 injured. 

Nine Iraqi civilians, including children, were killed and 23 others were wounded when several artillery shells hit a touristic resort in the Parkh village. Iraqi senior officials say that Turkey committed the attack and raised a complaint to the United Nations Security Council.

Turkey, for its part, denies its forces were behind the attack.  

"Turkish forces are increasingly intruding deep into the Iraqi territories, establishing more than 100 outposts inside the Iraqi territories in Zakho, as well as Amedia areas," Yarallah told lawmakers at an extraordinary session of the Iraqi parliament held on Sunday.

"There is a need for sending combatant troops in the Iraqi army as well as Kurdish peshmerga forces to those areas in order to expel Turkish forces from the outposts and impose Iraq's control over them," he said.      

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Yarallah also said that Turkey has five main military bases in the Iraqi Kurdistan region with more than four thousand Turkish soldiers. He clarified that more than 370 km of border areas of the Kurdistan region do not have the presence of Iraqi federal soldiers and in areas in which Iraqi federal guards are stationed, those forces are non-combatants. 

"Deploying combatant Iraqi troops to defend Iraq's borders is within the exclusive authority of the Iraqi federal government as it has been outlined in Article 110, the second item of the Iraqi constitution. Thus, sending combatant troops to the borders does not need consent from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), as it is the power and duty of Iraq's federal government to defend the sovereignty of the country," Balambo Kokoy, a Kurdish lawmaker from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and member in the interior and security committee at the Kurdistan parliament, wrote to The New Arab via WhatsApp.

"But before we contemplate sending Iraqi combatant soldiers to the borders to repel the Turkish army, we first should ask the question: is it not better to first negotiate with Turkey in order to withdraw its soldiers peacefully from Iraq?" he wrote. 

"If Turkey's incursion did not have any legal bases, and entered Iraq as an invasion regardless of the international decisions, then Iraq has the right to expel the Turkish troops from the Iraqi territories militarily through war," the Kokoy added.

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Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Monday claimed that the attack on Parkh's was carried out by "terrorists", in a reference to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is desginated by Turkey, the US, the UK, and the EU a "terrorist organisation".

The PKK, which has been at war with Turkey since 1984, dismissed Erodogan's accusations.   

"We have no doubt that Turkey committed the attack on Parkh village, since Turkey has created two military roads just one kilometre and half from the village that is considered by Turkey as a civilian obstacle in front of expanding the Turkish military operations against the PKK militants," Kamaran Othman, a member of the Community Peacemaker Teams - Iraqi Kurdistan (CPT), an NGO monitoring human rights abuses in the Kurdistan region and Iraq, said to TNA.

"All 11 neighbouring villages from Parkh were evacuated, and only the people of the village refused to leave their homes. Last year Turkish troops entered the village and threatened villagers to evacuate their homes otherwise they would be considered as PKK militants."

"On June 15, two civilians from the village were killed in a Turkish bombardment, but that also did not force villagers to leave their area. Eventually, Turkey shelled the village from nearby Khamkir military base with four artillery shells, committing the massacre in which 9 Arab tourists from southern Iraqi provinces were killed," he said. 

Othman also called the KRG  "negligent" for allowing Turkey to establish military outposts in the Kurdistan region's tourist areas.  

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The UNSC late on Monday condemned the deadly Zakho attack "in the strongest terms" and expressed its "support for the Iraqi authorities in their investigations", urging Turkey to cooperate actively with the Iraqi government and all other relevant authorities in support of ongoing investigations. 

"This horrific attack on a well-known and clearly identifiable tourist site demonstrates a shocking disregard for civilian life and for the universally accepted standards of international humanitarian and human rights law which seek to protect civilians," the UN Special Representative to Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, told the Security Council urgent session on Iraq on late Tuesday night.

"While all parties to any conflict must take all feasible precautions to avoid harm to civilians at all times, this was clearly not adhered to...I understand that Türkiye is also ready to address the issue jointly, with Iraq, in order to determine exactly what happened," Hennis-Plasschaert said.  

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For his part, Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein addressed the session, saying that Iraq has collected evidence from the site that points to Turkey. He also said that Turkey has neither any legal justifications nor joint agreements with Iraq that allows it to breach Iraq's sovereignty and invade its territories.

He called on the UNSC to form an independent international investigation committee to look into the attack. He also requested the UNSC issue a binding decision on Turkey to withdraw all its forces from Iraq, as well as for the council to condemn the hideous attack on Duhok and oblige Turkey compensate the victims.

He reaffrimed that Iraq was ready to cooperate with the UN and other related countries to expel the PKK from its territories, sayining that "their existence in Iraq leads to instability."   

Ahmed al-Sahaf, spokesperson for the Iraqi foreign ministry, told Iraqi state media on Sunday that Iraq's complaint to the UNSC included "the 22,700 breaches by Turkey against Iraq since 2018". 

He also noted that the Iraqi government has sent 296 complaints to the Turkish side.