A diplomatic rift has opened up between Turkey and Iraq after a Turkish attack killed at least nine people, including children, in Zakho in the north of the country. Among the dead were several Iraqi tourists from cities such as Kerbala and the capital Baghdad itself, as the attack targeted a resort in the mountainous region of Iraqi Kurdistan.
The moment Turkish artillery bombed a tourist resort in Zakho pic.twitter.com/ee4vlAH9Fr— Kurdistan 24 English (@K24English) July 20, 2022
"Turkish artillery fire in the tourist region of Parakh killed eight people and wounded 23," Mushir Bashir, head of the Zakho region, told a local radio station shortly after the attack. "Turkey attacked the town twice," Bashir told AFP.
Officials in Baghdad have also condemned the brutal Turkish attack. Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhemi warned that Iraq reserves the "right to retaliate" and will apply "all necessary measures to protect its citizens". "Turkish forces have once again perpetrated another flagrant violation of Iraqi sovereignty," Al-Kadhemi said in a statement. President Barham Saleh called the "Turkish bombardment" "a violation of the country's sovereignty and a threat to national security".
Prime Minister @MAKadhimi received today, Thursday, the bodies of the martyrs from the brutal Turkish attack, which targeted civilians yesterday in a tourist resort in #Dohuk Governorate. pic.twitter.com/vfh3hUap6C— المكتب الإعلامي لرئيس الوزراء ?? (@IraqiPMO) July 21, 2022
The powerful Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr - winner of the October elections - was among the first to denounce the attack, suggesting that Iraq suspend diplomatic relations with Ankara.
The Iraqi authorities have also demanded that Turkey officially apologise and withdraw "its military forces" from Iraqi territory and declared Thursday a day of national mourning for the victims of the attack. The Iraqi government has sent a delegation to the affected area headed by Foreign Minister Faud Hussein to investigate what happened.
?? 9 civilians including children were killed in a park in #Iraq’s autonomous #Kurdistan region Wednesday.— FRANCE 24 English (@France24_en) July 21, 2022
Baghdad has blamed the artillery strike on neighbouring #Turkey.@JJammine with the report pic.twitter.com/zNgU859yr9
The Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Executive has also coordinated with Baghdad to investigate the attack, Kurdish Prime Minister Masruour Barzani himself announced on Twitter. Barzani also condemned the Turkish aggression and the violence unleashed by "infighting between Turkey and the PKK". "This has happened too often and must stop," the Kurdish leader stressed.
I’m appalled by the reckless artillery attack on a summer resort in Zakho today which resulted in civilians casualties, and condemn it in the strongest terms.— Masrour Barzani (@masrour_barzani) July 20, 2022
It is precisely the PKK that Turkey accuses of being behind the attack. In a statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs assures that the country "is against all types of attacks against civilians" and points out that they are organised "by the terrorist organisation", referring to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a Kurdish group considered terrorist by Turkey, as well as by some Western countries. For this reason, the Turkish authorities have called on their Iraqi counterparts not to make statements influenced by "terrorist propaganda", again alluding to the PKK.
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu reaffirmed Turkey's position during an interview with Turkish state broadcaster TRT. The head of Turkish diplomacy offered to cooperate with the Iraqi authorities to reveal more details about the "treacherous attack" which, according to Cavusoglu, is aimed at preventing Turkish military operations in the region. He added that the Defence Ministry had "no information confirming artillery fire in the area".
(#Dohuk attack in #Iraq) Turkish FM Çavuşoğlu: We announced that we can cooperate with the Iraqi authorities as a result of the malicious attack that we believe carried out by terrorist organizations. We reject both authorized and unauthorized statements regarding Turkey. https://t.co/rs89IX6UFJ— Şeyma Sayar (@sheymasa) July 21, 2022
The Turkish armed forces have carried out numerous operations in northern Iraq, as well as in Syria, aimed at neutralising PKK "terrorists". Operation Claw-Lock, for example, is a mission that Ankara launched in April and is still ongoing in order to "prevent terrorist attacks and ensure border security", according to Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar. Shortly after Turkey launched the operation, Iraq called it a "violation of the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity". Baghdad accused Ankara of failing to warn it in advance of the mission targeting Iraqi national territory.
Despite Turkey's denial of the accusations and its involvement in the attack, Iraqi political authorities have already taken action against Ankara. First, the Iraqi government has recalled its chargé d'affaires in Turkey and summoned the Turkish ambassador. Baghdad has also decided to suspend the process of appointing a new ambassador to Ankara and is preparing a condemnation to be presented to the UN Security Council, according to the state news agency INA.
The moment the Turkish flag was taken down at their Baghdad embassy by protesters tonight. pic.twitter.com/pfebyNGhbF— Jake Hanrahan (@Jake_Hanrahan) July 20, 2022
The UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, for the time being, has called for a "thorough investigation" and urged "all parties" to cease violations. The UN, like the US and other Western countries, has also called for respect for Iraq's "sovereignty and territorial integrity".
Protesters in Baghdad burning the Turkish flag outside of the embassy in response to Turkey's slaughter of eight civilians today in Kurdistan. pic.twitter.com/lrBO9qefEQ— Jake Hanrahan (@Jake_Hanrahan) July 20, 2022
As the government took action against Turkey for the brutal attack, hundreds of people took to the streets to protest against the bombing and to show their rejection of Ankara's expansionist policies. The most tense moments were near the Turkish embassy, where Iraqi citizens burned Turkish flags and even removed the national flag from the building.
"We want to burn the embassy, the ambassador must be expelled," a 53-year-old protester told AFP as patriotic songs and anti-Turkish slogans rang out. "Our government is doing nothing," he added.
Widespread anger in Iraq as Iraqi citizens in Najaf burn the flag of Turkey, after Turkish airstrikes killed dozens of young Iraqi tourists including a 1 year old baby. pic.twitter.com/SJImndIgwO— ابو سجاد الكربلائي | HST ?? (@Twelver313) July 20, 2022
This attack came shortly after the tripartite meeting in Tehran between Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Vladimir Putin and Ebrahim Raisi. In the Iranian capital, the Turkish president also met with Ayatollah Khamenei, seeking support for the imminent incursion he is preparing in northeastern Syria. The Iranian supreme leader, by contrast, refused to give his blessing to the Turkish plans, warning that the new invasion 'would benefit the terrorists'.