Turkey has been anxiously following the Iraqi government’s efforts to liberate the city of Mosul from extremist factions and reestablish its authority there, an Arab intelligence official said.
Seeking to actively weigh in on the campaign, Turkey has signaled to the Iraqi government and its allies that the future of Mosul is a matter of national importance for Ankara.
The official said Turkey is concerned that Baghdad will transfer Shi’ite populations to the city, the country’s second-largest and a Sunni bastion, in an attempt to create a demographic balance that would prevent Sunni resurgence in the future.
Such measures would frustrate Turkey’s plans to petition for the reopening of the 1923 Lausanne Agreement that handed the city, hitherto under Turkish rule, to the newly founded Iraq.
He added that Turkey is also concerned that the growth of a Shi’ite population would usher in Iranian influence and give impetus to Kurdish rebels, both of which, he believes, could destabilize the border.
“We have detected Turkish preparedness to arm Turkestani fighters from in and around Mosul as potential loyalists in the event the battle of Mosul is decided and the Iraqi government decides to populate the area with Shi’ites,” he said.
He also said that Turkish intelligence bends over backwards to recruit Turkestani fighters, in a similar maneuver to the one it used in northern Syria, where it trained Turkestanis to fight alongside Turkish forces against the Islamic State.
The official said that other than getting its hands on oil-rich Mosul, Erdogan’s regime is deeply concerned about Iran’s growing influence along the border, which would facilitate cross-border collaboration between Iraqi and Turkish Kurds against the Turkish government.
“In light of the tension with the Kurds and the growing presence of a Shi’ite population along the border, the Turks believe that a loyal regional ally is absolutely crucial,” he said. “The Turkestanis, in addition to being pro-Turkish, are Sunni and could be a useful tie-breaker in the event of a future conflict. Turkey’s measures demonstrate that even after IS’s defeat, the Iraqi-Turkish-Syrian border will remain restive.”