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U.S. Base at Erbil International Airport Attacked Again, Same Target with Different Tactic

Updated: Apr 10, 2022

Reporting and Photography by Christopher Dowd

Security Response Closing Erbil International Airport

Yet again the Military Base holding United States Military Forces at Erbil International Airport in Northern Iraq was attacked, this time though a drone strapped with TNT was used as an airborne Improvised Explosive Device to attack the Military Base. This time as of now no casualties have been reported unlike the last rocket attack. The fact an airborne IED was used was not the only difference between this and the other two rocket attacks. The other difference is that shortly before this drone dropped explosives at Erbil International Airport, aimed at U.S. Military Personnel, three rockets were shot at Turkey's Bashiqa Army Base in Northern Iraq, killing one Turkish Soldier. Turkey is blaming this on the Kurdistan Worker's Party, or PKK, or their aligned militias, although this doesn't make sense as the PKK only would lose the support they have gained in recent years by attacking U.S. Forces. Especially as there has been pushes by the United States and Europe to delist them from the group of terrorist organizations, with Belgium already delisting them, which has angered the Turkish Government.

Due to this fact the PKK has everything to lose and nothing to gain from the attack on Erbil International Airport even if they are currently in an armed conflict with Turkey in Northern Iraq, and also in areas of South-Eastern Turkey where they were originally formed, with one of the founders and their leader, affectionately known as "Apo" or Uncle by many Kurds who support his ideology, Abdullah Öcalan, who has been jailed on Turkey's İmralı Island as the sole prisoner often since 1999. Much of the PKK fled to the safe haven that the Mountains of Northern Iraq provide long ago due to Turkish attacks on Kurdish Villages in South-Eastern Turkey which go on to this day. Kurdish Government Officials, especially those in the HPE, a Kurdish Political Party, often are being arrested for "supporting" the PKK with no evidence and stuck in jail with Mayors of Kurdish Cities and even Members of Parliament being "appointed" after the elected ones are arrested.

Photo of Explosion at Erbil International Airport

Bashiqa, where the attack on the Turkish Army Base happened also does not have a PKK presence. It is in the Northern Nineveh Governorate, North-East of the Capital of the Nineveh Governorate of Mosul, so even with no claim coming from this attack yet, with it only just happening two hours ago, it is highly unlikely this is a provocation from the PKK any Kurdish aligned militia, all of which Turkey considers part of the PKK, with most Kurdish Militias seeing Turkey as the main threat against any chance of Stateless Kurds having increased rights in Syria, Turkey, and even Iraq. Turkey claims the PKK and Kurdish Militias that the United States back in Syria such as the Syrian Democratic Forces, led by the Kurdish YPG and YPJ but also made up of Arab, Turkmen, Assyrian, Yazidi Forces. That said given the current regime in Turkey and their feelings about the Kurdish people and the Kurdish Question, with Kurds being the largest Stateless group in the World, with forty-million Stateless Kurds split up in the few years after Work War I between Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria, the Turkish Government will continue to blame the PKK and other Kurdish groups for the rocket attack in Bashiqa. Even though having no State of their own, and no significant presence near Bashiqa base, whenever there had been an attack like this Turkey always points to Kurdish Militias, despite the evidence or the fact it is illogical given who controls that area of Iraq, in what is considered disputed territories between Baghdad and Erbil, the Capital of the Autonomous Kurdish Regional Governance of Iraq. The PKK is mainly contained to the Mountains in far Northern Iraq, in the Kurdistan Regional Governance, far from the disputed territories where this attack took place.

Aftermath of Erbil Explosion

While the PKK is far North, using the high peaks of Northern Iraq for protection, Mosul's checkpoints, and those surrounding Mosul, which would include areas surrounding Bashiqa are now often mainly manned by Iranian Hashd Shaabi, or Popular Mobilization Forces, who have often clashed with the Kurds. Especially since Mosul was cleared of ISIS in an incredibly brutal, street by street fight, and then furthermore after the non-binding vote on independence for the Kurdistan Regional Governance held by the Kurdish Government in Erbil, when Baghdad attacked Kurdish held areas and pushed them further North. In 2014 Hashd Shaabi were made an official part of Iraq's Military structure as Baghdad feared the majority Sunni Anbar Province would side with the terrorist group ISIS over the Central Government in Baghdad, which is also often seen as taking orders from Tehran.

Of course the Hashd Shaabi has well over fifty militia's, and not all of them are attacking the United States, last time it was Saraya Awliya al-Dam, or Guardians of Blood that attacked Erbil International Airport, a group closely associated with Kata'ib Hezbollah. Kata'ib Hezbollah is a Militia which is part of the Hashd Shaabi, but are favored by Iran and often given the most support from Iran. They help keep the Iranian pipeline for weapons through Iraq to Syria and to Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon open, which has often lead to Israeli airstrikes in Syria to prevent advanced weaponry falling into the hands of Hezbollah.

Iran has strengthened their position in this belt, asserting more and more control, especially with the Syrian Regime since U.S. troops pulled back from the border with Turkey, forcing Kurdish soldiers to try and prevent a more severe invasion by Turkey, which led to them inviting the Syrian Arab Army and the Russian Military into the Autonomous Administration in Northern and Eastern Syria, where Turkey invaded the two centrally located and strategic cities, Tel Abyad and Serê Kaniyê, and the area that connected these two cities. Of course since Biden became President of the United States he has been increasing the presence of United States Armed Forces, who have backed Kurdish Militias such as the YPG and YPJ, under the umbrella of the Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, a group that Turkey considers terrorist. The SDF fully controlled North East Syria, before the U.S. pulled back their forces from strategic areas on the border of Turkey to oil fields in Eastern Syria. Since Biden took the oath of office there has been over one hundred operations against ISIS sleeper cells in North-Eastern Syria, where Kurds make up a majority of those who are still fighting against sleeper cells left over from the Islamic State. This includes the recent clean up operations at al-Hol refugee camp, which hold civilians while ISIS families are seperated by a fence from the families the used to terrorize. There has been over thirty murders, including shootings and even beheadings on the ISIS side of the camp, which was becoming its own mini-Caliphate. During this days long operation they found weaponry, along with computers and other devices hidden underground where they were attempting to help stage attacks right from the camp and where they orchestrated escapes from the camp. That said although this may seem like this would put Turkey and Iran on the same side it doesn't, Iran also wants Turkey out of Iraq. Since there has been no claim yet on this attack an educated guess would lead me to believe that if it was not Saraya Awliya al-Dam, which there is a good chance it was, Kata'ib Hezbollah is involved in these attacks, either directly or through an associated militia.* The only question now is after a third attack, and a change in tactics, is what could come next since it is only by luck, especially with the last rocket attack, that there has not been even more deaths, and the attacks only seem to be escalating.

Security Forces Arriving to Shut Down Erbil International Airport in the Third Attack on the Military Base There Since Multiple Rockets were Shot Towards it on September 30th, 2020

*Since the time of this article Saraya Awliya al-Dam, a militia connected to Kata'ib Hezbollah took credit for the attack, the same group who, as mentioned, committed the last rocket attack.

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