Sunday, October 16, 2016

Iraq wants Turkish troops out of Iraq and not to take part in Mosul offensive

Iraq's Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi has warned Turkey that by keeping its troops in Iraq it risks a regional war. Turkey's parliament voted just last week to extend its military presence in Iraq for a year to help battle terrorist organizations.

Terrorist organizations for Turkey include not just the Islamic State but also some Kurdish groups such as the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK). The Iraqi parliament voted Tuesday night to condemn the Turkish decision to stay in Iraq. Al-Abadi warned on TV: "We have asked the Turkish side more than once not to intervene in Iraqi matters and I fear the Turkish adventure could turn into a regional war. The Turkish leadership's behavior is not acceptable and we don't want to get into a military confrontation with Turkey."
Turkey's military presence in Iraq is at the invitation of Masoud Barzani, who is president of the Kurdish regional government with which Turkey has solid ties. Most Turkish troops are at Bashiga a base north of Mosul. The Turks are training Kurdish peshmerga and Sunni fighters in preparation for the offensive against the city of Mosul. Numan Kuirtulmus, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister says the troop presence became necessary as the Islamic State captured Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq, in 2014: "Neither Turkey's presence in Bashiqa nor its operation right now in Syrian territory are aimed at occupying or interfering with the domestic affairs of these countries." However, since the Turks never sought permission from the central government to send troops, the Baghdad government regards them as occupiers.
Turkey is worried that the offensive against Mosul, especially if led by the Shiite militia could result in many refugees fleeing to Turkey. Turkey is concerned that ethnic strife between Sunnis and Shiites will increase. It also worries about involvement of some Kurdish groups, as well as the fate of the minority Turkmen population of Mosul.
The Mosul Museum Library before it was burned to the ground by ISIS members.
The Mosul Museum Library before it was burned to the ground by ISIS members.
Assyrian Voice
Turkey summoned the Iraqi ambassador to complain about the condemnation of the Turkish military presence in the Iraqi parliament. The Turkish Foreign Ministry said: "We believe this decision does not reflect the views of the majority of Iraqi people, whom Turkey has stood by for years and attempted to support with all its resources. We find it noteworthy that the Iraqi parliament, which has not said anything about the accepted mandate for years, puts this on the agenda as though it were a new development in times when terror is taking so many lives in Turkey and Iraq." In turn, on Wednesday, Iraq summoned the Turkish ambassador to Baghdad in order to protest what Iraq said were provocative comments about the Turkish troop deployment.
Kurdish and Turkmen members of the Kurdish parliament in northern Iraq called Baghdad's description of Turkish troops as "occupiers" as politically motivated. Renas Jano, an MP for the Kurdistan Democratic Party(KDP) said: "Iraqi politicians always refer to the country’s ‘sovereignty and independence’ when it suits their interests. Now they’re using the mantra of ‘national sovereignty’ to criticize Turkey’s military presence in northern Iraq." He noted that Baghdad was not complaining about the rival Kurdish PKK group operating in Iraq. The PKK is regarded as a terrorist group by Turkey. Jano said that with the PKK operating in Iraq the presence of Turkish troops was necessary for security.
Turkish troops drive their anti-mine Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) past shepherds on a road near ...
Turkish troops drive their anti-mine Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) past shepherds on a road near the Syrian village of Tuwairan, located around 2km of al-Rai, the small border town with Turkey
Nazeer al-Khatib, AFP/File
Another MP for the KDP led by Barzani questioned why the presence of Turkish troops were questioned while troops from other foreign countries had been accepted. He wondered why there were not demands for them to leave. The obvious difference is that US and other coalition forces are present in Iraq at the invitation of the Iraq federal government. The Turkish forces are not.
Aydi Maruf an MP for the Iraqi Turkmen Front said that because of the ethinic makeup of Mosul it had cultural affinity with Turkey. Manuf worried that if the offensive were led by Shia militia this would create tension with the Sunni majority in Mosul.
The federal Iraqi government has protested a number of times at the Turkish troop deployment and even demanded their immediate withdrawal. Iraqi Kurdistan along with Turkey appear able to ignore the complaints from Baghdad. There may be conflict between Kurdistan and the central government after Mosul is liberated as the two governments may not agree on who is to govern Mosul. The region is oil rich and the Kurds would no doubt like it to be part of Iraqi Kurdistan.Turkey is anxious to play a role in the Mosul offensive but an Iraqi security official said: "The Iraqi government seeks to make clear that there is absolutely no role for Turkish forces in the Iraqi sphere. Any movement or intervention by Turkish forces (deployed in Iraq) during the military operations (to re-take Mosul), would be faced with a very strong response." Iraq requested that the UN Security Council meet on Thursday to discuss "the Turkish takeover of Iraqi territory and its interference in its internal affairs."
Iraqis hold crossed-out portraits of Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a December ...
Iraqis hold crossed-out portraits of Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a December 2015 demonstration to demand the withdrawal of Turkish forces from Iraq
Ahmad Al-Rubaye, AFP/File
Iraqi security forces will be backed by a US-led coalition plus a group of mainly Shia militias called the Popular Mobilisation Forces(PMF). The PMF were established by the Iraqi government back in June of 2014 to fight the Islamic State(IS). Iraq has already won back 70 percent of the territory it originally lost to the IS. Two of the main members of the PMF have threatened to attack Turkiish forces if they take part in the offensive against Mosul or even if they remain in Bashiqa. Spokesperson, for the PMF Ahmad-Al-Assadi said: “We consider them an occupation force and we will deal with them on this basis. As long as they are seen as occupiers, we have a right to adopt all available means to deal with the occupiers.” Defeating the IS is just one of many problems faced by those planning an assault on Mosul.

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