Terrorist Organisation PKK in the Context of Türkiye-Iraq Agreements

The recently strengthened diplomatic relations between Türkiye and Iraq evolved into serious steps towards cooperation based on mutual strategic interests with the visit of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to Iraq on April 22, 2024.   

As it is known, the relations between the two countries have been in the grip of security and water issues that constitute the strategic priorities of the countries for a long time. However, the approaches of both governments to turn the environment created by international and regional developments into an opportunity led to this strategic cooperation.

It is clear that the broad framework of this cooperation, which includes 26 different agreements ranging from security to water, education to tourism, energy to agriculture, especially the Development Road Project, will not only contribute to the economy and stability of the region, especially Iraq and Türkiye, but will also have a reinforcing effect on Türkiye’s role and weight in regional politics and support Iraq's institutionalization in reconstruction. However, all these positive developments were perceived as a "vital threat" to its existence by the PKK terrorist organization, which has strategic bases in northern Iraq.

Previously, Türkiye’s unilateral operational initiatives in northern Iraq within the scope of its right to legitimate defense arising from international law had threatened and limited the presence of the organization in the region. Now, the possibility of the Iraqi side joining the efforts to fight terrorism in the region, which emerged after the agreement, seems to have caused panic for the terrorist organization. 

This is quite natural because the terrorist organization sees this region as a liberated and safe area for itself and has completely positioned its leading cadres, armed structure, and logistical weight centers in this region. Therefore, the organization is aware that a threat to its presence in northern Iraq will have a multiplier effect on the organization’s presence in all areas, including other countries. Moreover, the organization’s leadership is also concerned that, after the Iraq issue, the organization’s presence in Syria will come next.

Taking all these into account, the terrorist organization’s leadership sought an agreement that would include all kinds of concessions to the Iraqi government before the agreements, and when this was not possible and the agreements were signed between the two countries, the terrorist organization resorted to threatening statements against the Baghdad government and the Kurdish Regional Government of Iraq (KRG). It is possible that the terrorist organization will resort to more coercive methods against both governments[1], escalate its attacks on the presence of the Turkish Armed Forces in northern Iraq and target the Turkmen population, which it perceives as more vulnerable.

As is well known, the PKK terrorist organization aims to establish a structure under its own leadership in northern Iraq, similar to the one in Syria, and is aware that establishing such a structure can only be possible by being an effective and even dominant power in the region. In this sense, while the presence of the terrorist organization in northern Iraq was limited to the terrorist camps in the region in the past, in recent years, the organization has expanded its presence in the region to cities, towns, and villages through civilian structures in the form of social, political, and economic organizations[2]. This situation not only provides the organization with protection from the comprehensive and permanent operations of the Turkish Armed Forces in the region, but also provides the organization with the opportunity to create sympathy for the organization among the Kurds in the region through organizational propaganda and even to establish new PKK-led organizations through the advantage of being together with the people of the region. It is obvious that all of this increases the regional effectiveness of the organization.     

Nevertheless, the Iraqi government's recognition, even if tacitly, that the threat posed by the PKK terrorist organization has the capacity to affect Iraq more than Türkiye has emerged as the main issue that needs to be underlined in Türkiye-Iraq relations. The positive repercussions of this will be felt not only in the security policies between the two countries but also in all areas covered by the agreement. 


[1]   In June 2021, the terrorist organization carried out an armed attack on KRG security forces carrying out public order duties in the region on the grounds that they entered the so-called liberated area, and five Peshmerga were killed and seven were wounded in the attack.

[2] Such as research centers, cultural institutions, associations, sports clubs and various companies.