Iraqi prime minister disinvites Turkey from operation to liberate Mosul from ISIL

by WorldTribune Staff, October 10, 2016

Turkey will have no role in the liberation of Mosul from Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said.

“Turkish forces will not be allowed to participate in the liberation of Mosul under any circumstances,” Abadi said during a visit to the city of Karbala on Oct. 9, Al Sumaria news channel reported.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. /Reuters
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. /Reuters

Earlier this month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Dubai-based Rotana TV that Turkey “will play a role in the Mosul operation and no one can prevent us from participating.”

Iraq has said Turkey is more interested in the post-ISIL future of Mosul than helping to liberate it. Baghdad was also concerned about Turkey training Sunni-dominated Al-Hashd al-Watani forces at Bashiqa training camp 25 kilometers (15 miles) from Mosul.

Abadi said Turkey is “violating Iraq’s sovereignty” by maintaining an official deployment of 150 troops in Bashiqa as well as a staff of “military advisers” likely numbering in the thousands.

More fuel was added to tensions between the neighbors when Turkish parliament on Oct. 1 approved a one-year extension for its military operations in Iraq and Syria.

Iraq’s parliament responded by summoning the Turkish ambassador, branding Turkish forces in Iraq as occupiers and calling for a review of trade and economic relations with Ankara. Baghdad also said it would initiate immediate action with the United Nations to expel Turkish troops from Iraq.

A political adviser who was in the Iraqi parliament’s lobby when the issue was being discussed told Al-Monitor: “The interview of Erdogan with Rotana TV was discussed a lot here. Shi’ite parties and minority representatives were upset. There were calls for expulsion of the Turkish ambassador. Erdogan’s words that Mosul should be left to Sunnis annoyed the Turkmens. There is concern here that after Syria, Turkey might [focus on] Iraq. Turkey seems to be determined — at least Iraqis think so.”

According to Arabic and English translations, Rotana TV interviewer Jamal Khashoggi asked Erdogan: “Do you think Mosul can be liberated without the intervention of Turkey and Saudi Arabia?”

Erdogan replied: “I want to make it clear that Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the Western coalition will not allow sectarian domination. … But there is a major question: Who will then control the city? Of course, Sunni Arabs, Sunni Turkmens and Sunni Kurds. ”

Iraq’s Shiite-dominated Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), also called Hashid Shaabi, “must not be allowed to enter Mosul,” Erdogan continued.

“Turkey and Saudi Arabia especially must cooperate to prevent them from entering. When we set up the camp at Bashiqa and our soldiers were training peshmerga, Baghdad’s government was not uncomfortable with Turkey. We will not abandon our brethren who requested our support. We will not allow Mosul to be dominated by another terror group after [IS]. I believe Iran, too, will be careful about Mosul. Mosul belongs to people of Mosul and Tal Afar to the people of Tal Afar. Nobody else should enter these areas,” the Turkish president said.

That statement did not sit well with Shi’ite Turkmens, Shi’ite Arabs, Shabaks, Kakais, Yazidis and Christians who live in Mosul.

Turhan Mufti, the chairman of Iraq’s Nationalist Turkmen Peoples’ Party, told Al-Monitor the party doesn’t want Turkey to intervene in Mosul. “What is important is for Iraq to solve its own problems. This is not something you can do with invitations sent by the former governor of Ninevah or Barzani, but [only] with the invitation of the Iraqi government. How can anyone else invite a foreign force to the country? … Some say, ‘If there are U.S. soldiers, why not Turks?’ This means nothing. It is the Iraqi government that will decide which country can send its soldiers to Iraq.”

Mufti was also critical of Erdogan’s warning to Hashid Shaabi not to enter Mosul. “Hashid Shaabi is not made up of exclusively Shi’ites,” he said. “Mosul’s own Hashid Shaabi will of course take part. These are people who had fled from Mosul and Tal Afar. They are people of Mosul. Also, Iraq must be accepted as a whole. Why shouldn’t an Iraqi from Basra not fight at Mosul? We are in an all-out war against ISIL. Why can’t [Turkey] understand this?”

A Mosul Turkmen who was part of an unofficial diplomatic effort to improve relations between Turkey and Iraq in the first years of AKP rule in the early 2000s told Al-Monitor he now feels devastated:

“Why did Turkey wait for two years doing nothing against [ISIL]? Now it says [the Shiite] Hashid Shaabi should not enter Mosul. Fine, then why didn’t you let [the Sunni] Hashd al-Watani, which you claimed to have trained, fight? What were you waiting for? Others marched from Baghdad to Mosul, fighting their way and paying the price for it. Now you are telling them, ‘Stop.’ Who is going to listen to you? You say only Sunni Arabs, Sunni Turkmens and Sunni Kurds will remain in Mosul. Why are you talking only of Sunnis? There are at least 12,000 Shi’ite Turkmens in the Iraqi army, police and Hashid [forces] fighting ISIL. Why didn’t you help Turkmens until today? You gripe about Iran, but Iran was on board to help from day one. Why weren’t you? Even Ersad Salih, the chairman of the Iraqi Turkmen Front, openly said, ‘Turkey is not coming for us.’ This is what Turkmens feel.”

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