Turkey to deploy Russian air defense systems along Iraqi border – report

It is reportedly planned for Ankara to rely on Russian-made S-400 air defense systems in its planned campaign against Kurdish militants in Iraq

The S-400 air defense systems acquired from Russia by Turkey are expected to be deployed to the Turkish border with Iraq later this month, according to the daily Türkiye newspaper reported on Wednesday. The move is said to be part of a major operation against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) – a Kurdish militant group designated a terrorist organization in Turkey.

The S-400 deployment will reportedly be part of the preparation efforts that are due to be “sped up” after this year’s Muslin Eid al-Fitr holiday, which is celebrated over the weekend, the daily said. The air defense systems are expected to shield the Turkish forces from the PKK’s newest kamikaze drones, the report stated, adding that defense against unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) has been given “special priority” within the upcoming operation.

The PKK also reportedly acquired missiles and drones from France, India, Iran and some Eastern European nations, according to Türkiye Gazetesi, a daily newspaper.

Ankara has repeatedly mulled launching a large-scale operation against the PKK in northern Iraq over the past months. “We will resolve the problems on our border with Iraq by the summer,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in mid-March. At that time, he spoke about establishing “a 30 to 40 km security corridor” along the nation’s border with Iraq and Syria.

Baghdad officially banned the PKK in mid-March, ahead of Erdogan’s April visit to Iraq, which is set to become the first in 13 years.

The acquisition of Russian S-400 missile defense systems by Turkey, a NATO member, back in 2019 soured relations between Ankara and Washington. The deal resulted in sanctions being imposed against the country the next year and the nation’s exclusion from the F-35 fighter jet program.

In January, then-undersecretary of state for political affairs Victoria Nuland accused Ankara of threatening NATO’s security with its purchase of the Russian air defense platform. She also said at that time that the US “would be delighted to welcome Turkey back into the F-35 family” if only Ankara could “get through this S-400 issue” and opt for “alternative, NATO-interoperable systems to meet its defense requirements.”

Erdogan had earlier repeatedly rejected such US ideas by stating that the purchase was a “done deal.”