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Turkish Intervention in Iraq

Turkish forces have routinely operated in Northern Iraq. There was “Operation Steel” in 1995. And “Operation Hammer” in 1997.” And “Operation Dawn.” And the aplty named “Operation Northern Iraq.” In early 2008, Turkish soldiers entered Iraq in another effort to eradicate the PKK. “Operation Sun”, as the incursion was called, was conducted with Washington’s blessing. The BBC noted at the time “Washington described the PKK as a ‘common enemy’, and only urged Ankara to keep its incursion short and closely focused,” adding that “the positions of the UN and EU have been similar, suggesting a degree of sympathy with Turkey’s cause.”

Ankara is friendly with the KRG and the Kurd's Barzani’s 600,000 b/d oil operation depends on a pipeline that runs from Iraq to Ceyhan, the Turksih port city on the Mediterranean Sea.

A map published in October 2009 by the Turkish Education Ministry described lands in Azerbaijan, Iraq and Syria as Turkish, the website of CNN Turk reported with reference to the "Milliyet" newspaper. The map described Kerkuk, Mosul, Arbil and Nakhchivan as the Turkish territory.

Turkey had some 90 troops on the ground in Bashiqa “for two years” [ie, since 2013] on a mission to “train” the Peshmerga. The new troops – around 150 personnel supported by two dozen tanks- will “take over the mission,” according to Hurriyet 05 December 2015. “Turkey will have a permanent military base in the Bashiqa region of Mosul as the Turkish forces in the region training the Peshmerga forces have been reinforced,” the daily continues, adding that “the deal regarding the base was signed between Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Massoud Barzani and Turkish Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioglu, during the latter’s visit to northern Iraq on Nov. 4.” More than 2,500 Peshmerga, including high-ranking officers, had attended the Turkish training, the military added.

The Iraqi Prime Minister's Media Office stated on 05 December 2015 "It has been confirmed to us that Turkish troops numbering around one regiment armoured with tanks and artillery entered the Iraqi territory, and specifically the province of Nineveh claim that they are training Iraqi groups without the request or authorization from the Iraqi federal authorities and this is considered a serious breach of Iraqi sovereignty and does not conform with the good neighbourly relations between Iraq and Turkey. The Iraqi authorities call on Turkey to respect good neighbourly relations and to withdraw immediately from the Iraqi territory."

Turkey, a regional power with the second-largest armed forces in NATO, had at least 500 and as many as 1,000 soldiers stationed at a military camp at Bashiqa in northern Iraq -- about 24 kilometers northeast of Mosul. Posted there at the invitation of Iraq's northern Kurdish autonomous region, the Turkish forces had been training Sunni Muslim tribal fighters and Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces in Bashiqa since late 2015 when the town was recaptured from IS. But the Turkish military presence sparked a dispute with Iraq's Shi'ite-led government in Baghdad, which wanted its forces to be at the forefront of the offensive and has repeatedly called for the Turkish troops to leave the country.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said 22 October 2016 that Turkey was ready to "take measures" in northern Iraq because Ankara was not satisfied with promises from the United States and Baghdad about the role of Kurdish militants and Shi'ite militia fighters in the battle for Mosul. Yildirim made the remarks after Iraq's Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi rejected a call by U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter's for Baghdad to give Turkish forces a role in recapturing the northern Iraqi city from Islamic State (IS) militants. Abadi said after meeting with Carter in Baghdad on October 22 that he knew Turkey wants to participate in the battle for Mosul. "We tell them thank you, this is something the Iraqis will handle and the Iraqis will liberate Mosul and the rest of the territories," Abadi said.

Yildirim expressed concern about the way Shi'ite militia and fighters from Turkey's outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) might treat Sunni Arab residents of Mosul after the city is recaptured from IS militants. Yildirim said Turkey's military has "made every preparation to take our measures because the promises given by the United States and Iraq about the PKK and Shi'ite militias not being part of operations has not satisfied us yet." He added, "Turkey can never remain idle against massacres, potential refugee waves, and clashes along its border, and it will take action if necessary."

The bilateral tensions between Iraq and Turkey worsened after the Turkish parliament in October 2016 extended a mandate allowing Turkish troops to be deployed in Iraq and Syria to combat terrorists for an additional year. Following this step, the Iraqi parliament adopted a resolution voicing protest against Turkish military presence in the Bashiqa camp in northern Iraq, located about 19 miles northeast of Mosul. The lawmakers demand its government take the necessary legal and diplomatic measures, including a review of the economic relations between the two countries. Ankara has condemned the resolution.

The Iraqi government had no knowledge of any recent withdrawal of Turkish troops from the Bashiqa camp in northern Iraq, Iraqi Prime Minister Haydar Abadi's spokesman said 03 November 2016. "I have not been informed about such a measure or whether the Turkish troops have simply moved to relocate somewhere else, which would mean that Turkey will continue breaching Iraq's sovereignty and interfering in its affairs," Saad Hadithi said. Hadithi's comments come in response to remarks made by Turkish government spokesman Numan Kurtulmus who said Wednesday that the Turkish troops were not withdrawing from the Basheqa camp as a result of anyone's recommendation, adding that the camp would be relocated somewhere else.

Turkey acknowledged 19 December 2015 what it called a “miscommunication” with the Iraqi government over its recent troop deployments near the city of Mosul held by Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) in northern Iraq. A statement of the Turkish Foreign Ministry added it “continues” to move military forces from Nineveh province, which was the source of the miscommunication and reiterated its “support for Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.” The statement comes after US President Barack Obama urged Turkey's leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan to pull more troops out of Iraq and take additional steps to deescalate the tensions.

Kurdish Peshmerga forces launched a final offensive to liberate the ISIS-held town of Bashiqa in the early hours of 07 NOvember 2016 from all directions. As part of the offensive, warplanes from the US-led coalition also bombed the group’s positions inside Bashiqa paving the way for the Peshmerga to advance into the town. ISIS has dug multiple trenches for cover inside the town. Bashiqa had been surrounded by the Peshmerga for two weeks. Kurdish President Masoud Barzani declared on the Khazir Front last month that Bashiqa had fallen militarily and was surrounded by the Peshmerga, who were not rushing to go in for fear of booby traps and other explosives. Lying only 20 kilometres northeast of central Mosul Bashiqa had a diverse population, with a majority of Yezidis and Shabaks and a minority of Assyrians and Arabs, leading it to be often described as ‘the little Iraq.’

The Turkish servicemen deployed at the northern Iraqi city of Bashiqa killed more than 700 fighters of the Islamic State (ISIL, Daesh in Arabic) jihadist group since the beginning of their operation, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said 19 November 2016. "How can you claim that we support Daesh?… In Bashiqa alone we killed over Daesh 700 terrorists," Cavusoglu was quoted as saying by the Daily Sabah newspaper, responding to the comments of an Armenian representative at the NATO Parliamentary Assembly on Ankara's alleged support of the Islamists. He added that Turkey was one of the most active fighters against Daesh, as well as one of the main terrorists' targets. Turkey sent troops across the border with Iraq late in 2015 allegedly to train Sunni fighters at a base near the Daesh-held Iraqi town of Bashiqa. Ankara's move has been repeatedly criticized by Baghdad.

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Page last modified: 20-11-2016 17:04:40 ZULU