On November 18, the United States Consulate General in Erbil, the capital of the Iraqi Kurdistan region, issued a security alert warning American citizens of a near Turkish military operation in northern Iraq and northern Syria.
“U.S. Consulate General Erbil is monitoring credible open-source reports of potential Turkish military action in northern Syria and northern Iraq in the coming days. The U.S. government continues to strongly advise U.S. citizens to avoid these areas,” the security alert reads.
The consulate called on American citizens to avoid border areas, exercise caution, keep a low profile and monitor local media for updates.
The security alert came less than a week after a terrorist attack that killed six people and injured more than 80 others in the İstiklal Avenue of Turkey’s Istanbul. Turkish authorities announced that Kurdish separatists were behind the attack, implicating the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD).
The PKK has already denied any role in the attack, as have the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which accused the Turkish government of creating a pretext for a new ground operation in Syria.
Speaking about the terrorist attack on Al Arabiya TV on November 18, Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that his country will not stop its operations against Kurdish forces in Iraq and Syria.
“The strikes of our forces and the special operations carried out by the armed forces and intelligence services against the leaders of the PKK the PY will continue in northern Syria and northern Iraq,” the minister said.
Both Syria and Iraq condemned the terrorist attack in Istanbul. During a recent interview, Syrian foreign minister Faisal Mekdad warned Ankara against using the attack in Istanbul as an excuse for military escalation.
The Turkish military has been counducting an operation against PKK remnants in northern Iraq since mid-April. Furthermore, its forces and proxies in northern Syria have been preparing to launch a similar operation against the SDF since May.
Turkey could use the terrorist attack in Istanbul as a pretext to boost operations against the PKK in northern Iraq and kick off a new operation against the SDF in northern Syria. However, this will likely lead a backlash from the governments of the two countries as well as from Russia, Iran and the U.S.
- Syria Condemns Terrorist Attack In Istanbul, Warns Turkey Against Escalation
- Turkey Prepares For Military Operation Against Kurds After Istanbul Blast