Shiite militia groups in Iraq are threatening to attack Turkish troops unless they are withdrawn within 48 hours, according to a Reuters report.
The Turks moved a small contingent of troops into a camp near Mosul last week, ostensibly for the purpose of training Iraqi and Kurdish forces.
Karim al-Nuri of the Shiite “Badr Brigade” compared the Turkish troops to the Islamic State and even raised the specter of the Ottoman Empire.
“We have the right to respond and we do not exclude any type of response until the Turks have learned their lesson,” the militia spokesman declared. “Do they have a dream of restoring Ottoman greatness? This is a great delusion and they will pay dearly because of Turkish arrogance.”
“We say that the military option is still probable and we might reach a stage in the next few days where we start carrying out operations against the Turks, be it against their soldiers or Turkish interests in Iraq,” a spokesman for another militia group declared. As Reuters notes, that is more than just an idle threat to the Turks.
The Iraqi government also condemned the Turkish incursion, using a parliamentary motion rather than death threats. Last weekend, the Iraqi Foreign Ministry summoned the Turkish ambassador and demanded the Turkish forces be withdrawn. Ankara claims Baghdad invited these troops for their training mission, but Baghdad says it can recall issuing no such invitation.
“We were asked by Prime Minister Abadi to help train soldiers and, at his request, we set up a training camp in Bashiqa in 2014,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan insisted as recently as yesterday.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu took a slightly different tack, suggesting the new troops would serve as protection for existing Turkish trainers at the camp. “ISIL was a threat to our trainers in Bashiqa because the base is only 15-20 kilometers from Mosul and our troops only have light arms,” he claimed.
Baghdad’s mixed signals, as reported by Today’s Zaman, include imposing a pricey ban on Turkish imports Wednesday—bad news for a Turkish economy already reeling from Russian sanctions—while simultaneously telling the U.N. talks with Turkey were going “extremely well.” The Russians had complained to the United Nations about Turkey “recklessly and inexcusably” sending troops into Iraq without the government’s consent.