Turkey and Iran launch joint offensive against Kurds

Turkey and Iran have launched a joint military operation against Kurdish rebels along Turkey’s eastern border, according to Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu.

Soylu said on Monday: “We started carrying out an operation with Iran against the PKK [The Kurdistan Workers’ Party] on our eastern border this morning [and] will announce the result.” However, Iran’s official news agency IRNA, citing an anonymous army source, said Iranian forces were not involved in the offensive. The PKK is considered a terrorist organisation by Ankara and many Western countries.

Whilst the US has not commented on reports of the Turkish-Iranian offensive, on Sunday US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford said US commanders were “conducting detailed military planning” with their military counterparts in Ankara, “to address Turkish security concerns along the Turkey-Syria border”.

Iran’s Chief of Staff, Major General Mohammad Bagheri, travelled to Damascus yesterday to meet with senior Syrian and Iraqi military officers. Asharq Al-Awsat reported that they would discuss securing the Tehran-Damascus routes for road transportation, safeguard the Syrian-Iraqi border and open the two crossings of al-Waleed and al-Qaim. Iran’s Fars news agency reported that Bagheri’s trip also aims to develop a military defensive cooperation and to visit the frontlines and Iranian troops deployed in Eastern Ghouta and Deir Ezzor.

On Sunday, the Commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari said his forces had recruited 200,000 fighters in both Iraq and Syria in the past eight years to fight against the al-Nusra Front, ISIS and the Syrian opposition.

General Dunford on Sunday dismissed a Wall Street Journal report that said the US military was developing plans to keep up to 1,000 troops in Syria, calling it “factually incorrect.” He said: “There has been no change to the plan announced in February and we continue to implement the President’s direction to draw down US forces to a residual presence.”