Widening Turkey-PKK conflict presents new risks for Iraqi Kurdistan

Turkey has long targeted Kurdish separatist bases in the remote Qandil mountains, but recent cross-border strikes are also hitting near population centers.
PKK-aligned paramilitary fighters stationed west of Sinjar on Nov. 12, 2015. (PATRICK OSGOOD/Iraq Oil Report)

SULAIMANIYA - Turkey is widening the scope of its military campaign against Kurdish separatists based in Iraqi Kurdistan, attacking not just remote camps in the mountains but also targets in population centers that previously seemed safe.

As the conflict expands geographically it is creating new and larger problems: causing more civilian casualties, creating diplomatic rifts between Baghdad and Ankara, increasing security risks for oil operations, and posing a tough political dilemma for Iraqi Kurdistan's ruling parties.

Iraq has long been a battleground in Turkey's war against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) — considered a terrorist group by the U.S., EU, and Turkey — which uses guerrilla warfare to pursue political autonomy for Kurds in Turkey. But in the past six months, drone strikes and assassinations targeting PKK members and PKK-affiliated Iraqi civilians have taken place over 200 kilometers from the Turkish border, far beyond the northern Qandil mountains where the group has been based for decades.

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