Russia Attempts To Strong Arm US Ally Out Of Iraq

REUTERS/Maxim Zmeyev/Files

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Russ Read Pentagon/Foreign Policy Reporter
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Turkey and Russia are at each other’s throats once again, this time with Russia demanding the Turkish military leave Iraq while Turkey has accused Russia of arming of a Turkish separatist group.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Russia of arming Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) separatists Monday. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov countered Tuesday, demanding that the Turkish military remove itself from Iraqi territory.

“At this moment, terrorists are using anti-aircraft guns and missiles supplied by Russia. The separatist terrorist organization is equipped with these weapons. They have been transferred to them via Syria and Iraq,” said Erdogan while travelling to Turkey’s southeastern province of Diyarbakir, a known PKK sanctuary.

Turkish fighter aircraft engaged in a series of strikes on a PKK installation last week, killing 14. The Turkish government and the PKK are long time rivals and have been at each other’s throats since a peace accord fell apart in 2015. Russia believes that Turkey is actively entering Iraqi territory in order to attack PKK units.

“This (keeping troops in Iraq) is an absolutely unacceptable position,” said Lavrov, reported RIA News Agency, a Russian state-owned media outlet. “In principle, I believe that what the Turks are doing deserves far greater public attention on the part of our Western partners.”

The PKK is a pseudo-Marxist separatist group that operates predominantly in the border regions of eastern and southeastern Turkey, near the Iraqi border. The group has been fighting with the Turkish government since 1984 in an attempt to establish an independent Kurdish state. Violence between the Turkey and the PKK reached an all-time high in the early 1990s. Several western countries, including the U.S., consider the PKK a terrorist organization. A total of 40,000 people have died in the decades-long conflict.

Turkey and Russia have had a tenuous relationship since November of last year when Turkey shot down a Russian military aircraft that had allegedly entered its airspace. The attack was the catalyst for a series of back-and-forth diplomatic disputes that included a short-lived Turkish blockade of Russian ships entering the Turkish Straits.

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