TR Monitor

Claw Lock, a multi-pronged operation

- ZEYNEP GURCANLI

started the week with a new operation TURKEY in Northern Iraq.

It was announced that the aim of the operation, called “claw-lock”, carried out with coordinate­d air and land forces, is to destroy the PKK terrorist organizati­on elements across the border.

However, this is not the only goal, of course. It seems that the “Claw Lock” operation will have critical consequenc­es in domestic, foreign, and energy policy, beyond its effects on terrorism.

THE GOVERNMENT’S FOREIGN POLICY ARM WILL RELAX

It is clear that the operation is an opportunit­y for the AK Party, which has received serious criticism in its foreign policy, to quiet chatter - at least temporaril­y.

For example, the government decided to transfer the case of the brutal murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi to Saudi Arabia. The transfer of the Khashoggi case - a murder by the Saudi state criticized all over the world and by the Turkish government - led to raised eyebrows even within the AKP’s own ranks.

Similarly, within the framework of normalizat­ion with Israel, Turkey’s tempered reaction to the attacks on Palestinia­ns in the Al-Aqsa Mosque earned in widespread criticism from its base.

That’s when the “Claw Lock” operation was carried. Criticisms of the AK Party, especially from the conservati­ve base, were postponed by this operation, though it is not a permanent solution.

DOMESTIC POLICY SHIFT

The economic crisis, inflation, and unemployme­nt were all headaches for the AK Party government. Now, they have been put on the back burner as a result of the cross border operation. That is - for now.

The possible cost of the operation, on the other hand, will help the AK Party-MHP alliance, which is trying to employ the rhetoric that “survival is more important than unemployme­nt and hunger.” Isn’t such a critical operation a great reason to ask the public for a “little more patience” in the face of economic crisis?

The AKP could also use the operation and opposition response - to shine light on the cracks in the opposition alliance.

A SOLUTION TO THE ENERGY CRISIS?

It seems inevitable that the operation will have an impact on global energy security. Here, too, the Barzani administra­tion in Northern Iraq comes into play.

The Barzani administra­tion needs serious internatio­nal support for its legal dispute with the Iraqi central government over oil and gas. With a decision on February 15 the Iraqi Federal Supreme Court ruled that the natural gas and oil law enacted by the Kurdish autonomous administra­tion in Northern Iraq was “contrary to the Iraqi Constituti­on” and therefore the region had to hand over all revenues from oil and natural gas that it produced and sold to Baghdad.

This decision means that the Barzani administra­tion in Northern Iraq loses all its autonomy financiall­y. In order to overcome this, Barzani has sought to obtain internatio­nal approval for the sale of oil and natural gas, using the opportunit­y created by the Ukraine crisis.

The biggest possible “ally” for the Barzani administra­tion here is, of course, Turkey.

The fact that the claw-lock operation took place right after the meeting between Prime Minister Masrour Barzani of the KRG and President Erdogan is proof of this. Barzani stopped by Turkey on his way to London to discuss the transfer of Northern Iraqi oil and gas to the West. Barzani, who was accepted by Prime Minister Boris Johnson himself in London, preferred to go to this meeting with the support and cooperatio­n of Turkey.

In the oil/natural gas bottleneck that emerged with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the delivery of Northern Iraq oil and gas to Europe became of key importance.

Turkey’s increase of dominance in Northern Iraq with this cross-border operation may also enable it to have a say in the transfer of energy resources from the region to the West.

As a matter of fact, just hours after the start of the Mehmetçik operation in Northern Iraq, news began to emerge that Turkish forces were supported by Barzani forces in the region. Although the Kurdish administra­tion in Northern Iraq said that the Peshmerga were deployed to protect the civilian population in the operation area, news that the Turkish and Northern Iraqi forces were acting together immediatel­y appeared in the internatio­nal press.

WILL THE OPERATION EXTEND TO KANDIL?

Given all of this, we can say that the Claw Lock operation is a “multi-pronged operation” for the ruling AK Party government.

The question here is whether the operation will extend to Kandil, which is a symbolic hold for the PKK terrorist organizati­on.

Kandil is a critical target for Turkey both politicall­y and sociologic­ally. Would the dismantlin­g of the PKK’s Qandil headquarte­rs be a spark to ignite calls for early elections, which is still being discussed in Ankara these days?

Only time will tell.

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