In 2017 President Erdogan threatened to invade Iraq, after the country's Kurds voted for independence in a non-binding referendum.

Issuing a strongly-worded speech, Erdogan said fighting the Iraqi Kurdish bid for independence was "a matter of survival". The Turkish leader also suggested he could cut off a pipeline that carries oil out of Iraq, to increase pressure on an autonomous Kurdish region. Pointing to Turkish military exercises  taking place on Turkey’s border with the Iraqi Kurdish region,  Erdogan said: “Our military is not (at the border) for nothing." He added: “We could arrive suddenly one night.” There are around 30 million Kurdish people scattered across several countries following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire a century ago.

In August 2020 a Turkish airstrike in northern Iraq killed two high-ranking Iraqi security officials on Tuesday. The attack occurred in the Sidekhan area, a remote mountain region near the Turkish-Iraqi border, which has long been a target of Ankara’s raids and airstrikes. The strike targeted a vehicle belonging to the two border guard commanders who were previously engaged in discussions with the Kurdistan Workers Party.

The Arab League and its parliament have officially pledged to support Iraq’s sovereignty and condemned Turkish aggression and military action in the region. The UAE minister of state for foreign affairs separately denounced Ankara’s latest airstrike, and promised to “stand by the brotherly state of Iraq in the face of continuous Turkish violations against its sovereignty.” Egypt’s officials similarly rebuked Turkey’s assault as a “threat to regional security.”