New Turkish-Iraqi spat as Mosul battle continues

Iraqis are divided over presence of Turkish forces but anger towards An­kara coming from Shia militias has been more hostile than that of central government.

Turkey has some 700 troops stationed at Bashiqa camp

2016/11/06 Issue: 80 Page: 1

The Arab Weekly
Mamoon Alabbasi

LONDON - Turkish and Iraqi leaders traded barbs after Ankara announced it was de­ploying more troops and artillery near its border with Iraq.

Turkey has some 700 troops stationed at Bashiqa camp, where they trained Sunni Arab and Kurd­ish peshmerga fighters to combat the Islamic State (ISIS) in Mosul. Forces from Iraq’s Kurdistan Re­gional Government (KRG) recently liberated Bashiqa with Turkish support.

The central Iraqi government, which opposes the Turkish pres­ence, was enraged at the prospect of further involvement by Turkey. “The invasion of Iraq will lead to Turkey being dismantled,” Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said during a televised news con­ference.

“We do not want war with Tur­key and we do not want a confron­tation with Turkey but if a confron­tation happens, we are ready for it. We will consider [Turkey] an en­emy and we will deal with it as an enemy,” Abadi said.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mev­lut Cavusoglu denounced Abadi’s remarks, accusing the Iraqi prime minister of being too weak to fight “terror organisations” that are tar­geting Turkey while having bases in Iraq, in a reference to ISIS and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

“If you have the strength, why did you surrender Mosul to terror organisations? If you are so strong, why has the PKK occupied your lands for years?” Cavusoglu asked.

In the past two years, Turkey suf­fered an increase in terror attacks by ISIS as well as the PKK and its affiliates, leading to the death of scores of Turkish civilians and se­curity officials in addition to for­eign tourists.

Turkish Defence Minister Fikri Isik said, with the new deployment, “Turkey is preparing in advance for whatever happens” during the bat­tle for Mosul, which began on Oc­tober 17th. Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said the armoured convoys were sent to the border because “this neigh­bouring fire can spread to us”.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey would not allow the district of Sinjar in the province of Nineveh, where Mosul is the capital, to become another PKK base.

Turkey said it was also concerned about the fate of Arab Sunni civil­ians and Turkmen in Mosul, Tal Afar and Kirkuk. Iraqis are divided over the presence of Turkish forces in Iraq but the anger towards An­kara coming from Iran-backed Shia militias has been more hostile than that of the central government.

Mamoon Alabbasi is Deputy Managing Editor and Online Editor of The Arab Weekly. You can follow him on Twitter @MamoonAlabbasi

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