“Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is banking on Iran’s support for a Turkish offensive against Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) bases in the Qandil Mountain range bordering Iran and Iraq, although questions remain about the scope of the operation and the extent of Iranian backing.”
Semih Idiz explains, “Hopes were raised in Ankara that cooperation between Turkey and Iran over the Kurdish issue would increase after both countries rejected the results of the independence referendum held by the Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq in September 2017.”
But in an embarrassing retort to Erodgan and his ministers, who hyped the prospect of cooperation in Qandil, Iranian military spokesman Gen. Abulfazil Shekarchi said, “The Islamic Republic of Iran thinks military action against the territory of another country without permission from its legitimate government, with the excuse of combating terrorism, is illegal. … Iran will never support initiatives that will damage the sovereignty of neighboring countries.”
Idiz adds, “Like Russia — Turkey’s other “partner” in Syria under the Astana process — Iran also maintains that only foreign troops invited by the Syrian and Iraqi governments are legally present in those countries. Ankara counters by arguing that Baghdad and Damascus have lost control over parts of Iraq and Syria used by the PKK and the YPG, and says this has left Turkey with no choice but to act unilaterally in order to ward off the existential threat to the country’s security from these groups. … Iran’s own war against the PKK-affiliated Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan also fueled these hopes. Iran’s ongoing fight against this group, however, has not prevented Tehran from having a different policy on Turkey’s fight against the PKK or the YPG.”
“Ankara and Baghdad also remain at odds over the presence of the Turkish military in Bashiqa near Mosul. Iraq has repeatedly called on Turkey to pull back its forces there, a demand Ankara has refused to meet so far, citing the threat from the PKK,” Idiz writes.
“Pragmatism and a shared dislike of the West may impel Ankara and Tehran to maintain the appearance of good ties presently,” Idiz concludes. “Many expect, however, differences over Syria and Iraq to increase in time, because Turkey and Iran are ultimately on different sides of the Middle East’s active and growing sectarian fault line.”