Turkey, Iran deploy ‘game-changing’ drones in north Iraq | Daily News

Turkey, Iran deploy ‘game-changing’ drones in north Iraq

A file picture released on September 27, 2013 by the official website of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards shows a newly Iranian-made drone,  “Shahed-129” (Witness 129) being shown in Tehran. Turkey and Iran are increasingly adopting  “game-changing” drones as their weapon of choice against Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq, prompting fears for the safety of civilians and stoking geopolitical tensions. The Shahed-129 is one of Tehran’s weapons of choice for northern Iraq, said Adam Rawnsley, who tracks Iranian dron
A file picture released on September 27, 2013 by the official website of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards shows a newly Iranian-made drone, “Shahed-129” (Witness 129) being shown in Tehran. Turkey and Iran are increasingly adopting “game-changing” drones as

SULAIMANIYAH: Turkey and Iran are increasingly adopting “game-changing” drones as their weapon of choice against Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq, prompting fears for the safety of civilians and stoking geopolitical tensions.

“Not a day goes by without us seeing a drone,” said Mohammad Hassan, mayor of Qandil, the mountainous Iraqi stronghold of Turkey’s outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

“They fly so low Qandil’s residents can see them with their naked eye,” Hassan told AFP.

The PKK has used Qandil for decades as a rear-base for its insurgency against the Turkish state.

The Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDK-I) has similar rear-bases in other remote areas of Iraqi Kurdistan, from which it launches attacks across the border into Iran.

Turkey and Iran consider the Kurdish rebels as “terrorists” and routinely conduct cross-border ground assaults, air strikes and artillery bombardments against their Iraq bases.

Starting in 2018, both countries began using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for surveillance and even targeted assassinations in northern Iraq.

Drone use has expanded dramatically since Turkey launched a new assault in June, analysts and residents of affected areas told AFP.

Activists said dozens of border villages and adjacent farms have been abandoned by their terrified residents.

The drone strikes have also prevented thousands of Yazidis from returning to their homes in Sinjar district, close to the Syrian border, where PKK elements now have a presence.

“The Turkish bombing causes so much terror, so Yazidis are not coming home,” Sinjar mayor Mahma Khalil told AFP. Despite public criticism, Turkey has continued its drone warfare -- likely because of new strides against the PKK. For years, the PKK sheltered in Iraq’s mountains, where manned warplanes and ground troops struggled to reach them. But drones have allowed Ankara to track, identify and eliminate PKK targets within minutes, Nicholas Heras of the Institute for the Study of War told AFP.

“Turkey’s use of military drones in northern Iraq has been a game-changer in its war against the PKK,” he said.

Ankara is now swapping expensive fighter-bombers like the US F-16 for drones like the domestically-produced Bayraktar TB2, which has better surveillance, can fly for 24 hours and is cheaper -- so “expendable” if downed by the PKK, said Turkish drone expert Sibel Duz. In an exclusive interview in Qandil, PKK spokesman Zagros Hiwa told AFP Turkey had created a 15 kilometre (10 mile) buffer zone in northern Iraq with the help of its drones.

(AFP)