Ankara-Heated responses renewed between Turkey’s president and Iraqi authorities on the topic of deploying 500 Turkish soldiers to the Bashiqa military camp located West of Iraq.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Iraqi authorities, especially Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on “knowing his limits,” after having criticized Turkey’s military presence in Iraq.
Turkey dispatched its forces in an effort to train Iraqi paramilitary troops that will be partaking in the long anticipated fight against ISIS in Mosul.
NATO member Turkey shares a 1,200 km border with Syria and Iraq and faces threats from ISIS armed extremists in both. But it is concerned that international efforts to destroy radicals will leave new dangers in their wake.
The Turkish army, its senior ranks purged following a failed military attempt to overthrow Erdogan in July, launched an incursion into Syria in August to push back ISIS and prevent U.S.-backed Kurdish militia fighters from seizing territory. Ankara is wary of Washington’s support for what it sees as a hostile Syrian Kurdish force.
Erdogan suggested Turkey could take a similar attitude in Iraq, where expectations are growing of an assault to drive ISIS out of the northern city of Mosul.
“We will approach the operation in Iraq, the operation that will be in Mosul soon, with the same attitude,” Erdogan told a meeting of Islamic leaders in Istanbul in televised comments.
“Turkey cannot intervene against the threats right next to it? We will never accept this … We don’t need permission for this, and we don’t plan on getting it.”
Turkey’s parliament voted two weeks ago to extend the deployment of an estimated 2,000 troops across northern Iraq by a year to combat “terrorist organizations” – a wording broad enough to refer to Kurdish militants as well as ISIS.
Iraq condemned the vote, and Abadi warned Turkey risked triggering a regional war. His government has requested an emergency United Nations Security Council meeting to discuss the issue, and both countries have summoned each other’s ambassadors in a mounting diplomatic stand-off.
“The Iraqi prime minister is insulting me, first know your limits,” Erdogan said.
“Iraq had certain requests from us regarding Bashiqa, and now they are telling us to leave. But the Turkish army has not lost so much standing as to take orders from you.”
“If you try to change the demographic structure in Mosul, you will ignite the fire for a major sectarian war,” Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told members of his ruling AK Party at a meeting in parliament.
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey could play the same role in the Mosul offensive or any campaign to take Raqqa, ISIS’ stronghold in Syria, as it did with its August incursion into the Syria, when it sent in tanks and fighter jets in support of Syrian rebels fighting the radicals.
“Turkey can give the support it gave Jarablus to Raqqa or Mosul as well,” Cavusoglu said in an interview on Turkey’s A-Haber television. “Turkey is ready for any kind of support to cleanse Syria and Iraq of Daesh,” he said, using an Arabic term for ISIS.