nsnbc : Turkey’s government reversed its promise to Iraqi Prime Minister al-Abadi to withdraw its troops from Iraq until after the completion of the Mosul operation. Moreover, Turkish troops will stay in Iraq until anti-terrorism operations have ben completed say diplomatic sources. Anti-terrorism operations encompass the fight against Turkey’s Kurdistan Worker’s Party – PKK.
Turkey’s Ambassador to Iraq, on January 11, noted that Turkish troops would remain at the Bashiqa camp in northern Iraq and only withdraw after the anti-terrorism operations, including operations against ISIL in Mosul have been completed. Turkey’s Defese Minister Fikri Isik commented that Ankara and Baghdad would discuss the issue “after terror groups were removed from the region”. Isik stressed that a Turkish military presence in Iraq was necessary but that Turkey wants to respect Iraq’s territorial integrity.
On Saturday, January 7, 2017, Turkey’s Prime Minister Binali Yildirim promised Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi that Turkey would withdraw its troops from Iraq. There are 800 Turkish troops deployed in the Mosul and Shaqlawa regions, the move that sparked a crisis between Ankara and Baghdad. Turkey sent a contingent of an additional 150 forces and 25 tanks in December 2015 to bolster its military presence in the Bashiqa camp, an area that has seen recent fighting. All of these troops were deployed to Iraq against the expressed protest of Iraq’s federal government in Baghdad, in violation of Iraqi sovereignty, and without an authorization from the UN Security Council.
In December 2015 the Iraqi government protested against the unannounced arrival of hundreds of Turkish troops in the country. On October 5, 2016 the Iraqi parliament rejected the extension of an intermediate mandate for Turkish troops that had been granted “after the fact” and after Turkey had committed what, according to international law amounts to a crime against peace.
On October 6, 2016, Iraq requested that the UN Security Council (UNSC) urgently discuss Turkey’s illegal military presence in Iraq as the dispute with Ankara over the troops escalated. The Iraqi foreign ministry summoned the Turkish Ambassador again in October 2016 to protest the continued presence of Turkish troops in northern Iraq without Baghdad’s permission. Ankara’s agreement with Iraq to withdraw its troops which, according to international law are illegal in Iraq, came as a surprise for many.
However, Foreign Minister Binali Yildirim met Massoud Barzani, the President of Iraq’s Kurdistan Autonomous Region in Erbil after he had left Baghdad. Yildirim and Barzani agreed that Turkey and the Kurdistan Autonomous Region (KAR) would increase cooperation in a number of sectors including economy as well as anti-terrorism.
“We are all facing terrorism threats that are in need of mutual cooperation in order for them to vanish. … We are ready to upgrade our cooperation in all aspects”. Barzani noted that the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, Daesh) has suffered colossal military defeats and territorial losses in the Kurdish region of Iraq and that Kurdish Peshmerga forces have managed to push back ISIL from the region.”
Turkish PM Binali Yildirim, for his part, stated that cooperation in counter-terrorism also includes joint efforts against the Kurdistan Worker’s party (PKK) as well as the Gülenist Hizmet movement which runs a network of schools around the world. Yildirim said:
“It is the duty of Turkey and the Kurdistan Region to deal with threats of PKK, Islamic State and the Hizmet Movement. … We will do every possible thing to bring this to an end. We can’t accept this terrorist organization spreading more in the western region, like in Sinjar, we can’t allow them to base there. This is an issue we can’t accept at all. … We can’t accept the attacks that the PKK launched from Iraqi territory against our country”.
The announcement that Turkey would not withdraw its troops from Iraq until the conclusion of the Mosul operation and “anti-terrorism operations” does not surprise most analysts who have followed regional developments. It is, however, substantiating assessments made by nsnbc editor-in-chief Christof Lehmann who noted that Turkey would play on rivalries between Kurdish parties to stay in northern Iraq to help the Barzani regime in Erbil oppress the PKK presence, oppress Iraqi Kurdish opposition parties, and aid Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic party (KDP) in its support of the Kurdistan Democratic Party – Iran (KDP-I). The KDP-I has, since the summer of 2016, increasingly clashed with Iranian Revolutionary Guard units in northwestern Iran. The KDP-I operates from bases in northern Iraq with the full support of the Barzani administration.
It is noteworthy that northern Iraq’s KDP administration and Massoud Barzani repeatedly delayed long-overdue elections. Earlier this month the Barzani administration announced that elections had to be delayed again until anti-terrorism operations had been concluded.
F/AK – nsnbc 11.01.2017