World View: Turkey and Iraq in Dispute over Turkish Role in Mosul Operation

This morning’s key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

  • Turkey and Iraq in dispute over Turkish participation in Mosul operation
  • Turkey views the Mosul operation as a security threat to Turkey
  • ISIS may be given a chance to escape to Syria

Turkey and Iraq in dispute over Turkish participation in Mosul operation

Kurdish Peshmerga forces in operation to liberate Mosul on Monday (Anadolu)
Kurdish Peshmerga forces in operation to liberate Mosul on Monday (Anadolu)

Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan insisted on Monday that Turkey will take part in the operation to recapture Mosul from the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh):

They say Turkey should not take part in the operation. How can Turkey not take part in the operation when it shares a 350-kilometer border with Iraq and receives all the terror threats from there? We have brothers in Mosul, Arabs, Turkmens and Kurds. If you go further north, we have relatives.

Turkish troops have been operating since 2014 in the Bashiqa military base in northern Iraq near Mosul, along the border with Turkey. Turkey has an estimated 2,000 troops in Iraq, around 500 of them in Bashiqa training about 1,000-2,000 Sunni Iraqi militia fighters in preparation for the Mosul operation.

On Thursday of last week, Iraq’s foreign ministry in Baghdad summoned the Turkish ambassador. Iraq said that the Turkish forces in Bashiqa were “occupying forces” and “should be immediately withdrawn.” Turkey refused to withdraw, and was able to produce a video of a December 2014 video in which Iraq’s prime minister Haider al-Abadi asked for “military, intelligence, arms and training support” from Turkey. Daily Sabah (Ankara) and Anadolu (Turkey) and Daily Sabah (Ankara)

Turkey views the Mosul operation as a security threat to Turkey

In Thursday’s statement, Erdogan reaffirmed that Turkey will do what is necessary in Mosul, and will not take directions from Iraq’s prime minister.

Turkish officials are saying that the Mosul operation is a threat to the security of Turkey for several reasons:

  • There are 1.2 million civilians in Mosul, and if there’s a humanitarian disaster and they start fleeing, many of them will flee to Turkey.
  • Some of the forces fighting in the Mosul operation are Iran-backed Shia militias known as Hashid Shaabi or Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF). The PMF participated in the recapture of Ramadi and Tikrit from ISIS, and in each case conducted bloody atrocities among the Sunni Muslim civilians in those towns. Turkey’s officials state that they’re not going to permit the PMF to do the same thing in Mosul, and risk a wider Sunni-Shia sectarian war. Iraq has responded by promising that the PMF forces will take part in the operation, but will not be permitted to enter Mosul itself.
  • Some of the forces fighting in the Mosul operation are Kurdish Peshmerga militia forces. These are the so-called moderate Kurdish forces, as opposed to the separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) which is internationally recognized as a terrorist group, and has conducted numerous terrorist attacks within Turkey. Turkey demands that Kurdish forces not be permitted to participate in the Mosul operation, just as Turkey’s Operation Euphrates Shield prevented Kurdish forces from expanding their territory in Syria. Iraq has responded by promising that the Kurdish Peshmerga forces will take part in the operation, but will not be permitted to enter Mosul itself.
  • As suggested by Erdogan’s statement quoted above, Turkey had a very close and influential relationship with Mosul prior to the ISIS takeover. Erdogan wants to make sure that Turkey regains that influence after Mosul is recaptured.

The concerns are real. The Mosul operation will be led by Iraq’s army (the one that dropped their guns and fled for their lives as ISIS fighters approached Mosul in 2014). The Iraqi force of 30,000 soldiers will have other participants besides the Iraqi army: the US-led coalition, Turkey, Sunni tribes, Kurds, Iran, and Shia militias. These participants have a common objective: to recapture Mosul from ISIS. However, once the recapture is complete, these participants will all have different objectives. In particular, just as Turkey wants to retain its influence in Mosul, the other participants will also want to maximize their own influence.

So far, none of these conflicting objectives has influenced the first day of the military operation. But it’s still possible that this situation will cause major problems down the road. CNN and Yeni Safak (Ankara) and Daily Sabah (Ankara) and BBC

Related Articles

ISIS may be given a chance to escape to Syria

Among all the analyst opinions, there seems to be little doubt that the recapture of Mosul will succeed. There are a wide variety of opinions on how long it will take, how many civilians will be killed, how much of the city will be destroyed, how big the humanitarian disaster will be, and whether new terror groups will fill the vacuum when ISIS is gone. But analysts seem unanimous in believing that the Iraqi force of 30,000, backed by US-coalition airstrikes, will succeed in defeating the 3,000 to 4,500 ISIS militants in Mosul.

The loss of Mosul will be a huge symbolic loss for ISIS. It’s the largest city that ISIS has captured — even larger than Raqqa in Syria. Even more important, it’s the city where ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared his “caliphate.”

However, some analysts say that Iraq is hoping that ISIS will flee without fighting. Iraqi forces have been surrounding Mosul and blocking exits from the north, east and south, but they’re leaving a corridor open to the west, hoping that ISIS fighters will take advantage of it and flee to ISIS headquarters in Raqqa in Syria.

According to one analyst, ISIS commanders are aware that they’re going to lose the battle, and that many of their forces will be killed, so they may decide to withdraw their best fighters, and leave the newbies behind to fight and be killed.

Other analysts aren’t so sure. One of them points out that ISIS fighters fleeing to the west will be easy targets for US airstrikes, and so ISIS commanders may feel they have no choice but to stand and fight. Washington Post and Business Insider (Australia) and Economist

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Iraq, Mosul, Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria/Sham/the Levant, IS, ISIS, ISIL, Daesh, Bashiqa military base, Haider al-Abadi, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, Hashid Shaabi, Popular Mobilization Forces, PMF, Peshmerga, Kurdistan Workers’ Party, PKK, Operation Euphrates Shield
Permanent web link to this article
Receive daily World View columns by e-mail


Comment count on this article reflects comments made on Breitbart.com and Facebook. Visit Breitbart's Facebook Page.