New Turkish-Iraqi spat as Mosul battle continues
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.