Archive for the ‘Turkey vs Iraq’ category

Turkey’s New Territorial Claims Threaten NATO

October 13, 2016

Turkey’s New Territorial Claims Threaten NATO, Counter Jihad, October 13, 2016

turkey-islamic

Should Russia be able to get a process of negotiation going between Turkey, Iraq and Iran on the issue of Turkish territorial expansion, Russia would assume the leadership role in the region.  Should it actually resolve the negotiations successfully, it could expect Turkey to become part of the Russian sphere of influence.  That would potentially derail NATO, as NATO’s decisions must be taken by a unanimous vote.  If Turkey becomes as strong a Russian ally as China, NATO could become as useless an organ for opposing Russian ambition as the United Nations Security Council (on which Russia has a veto).

American diplomatic weakness is partially a function of American military weakness in the region.  Russian diplomatic success is partially likewise a function of its deployment of air and naval-gunnery forces, as well as its so-far successful alliance with Iran.  Better American leadership might help, but for now, the situation is rapidly sliding away from America and towards the Russians.

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A significant claim is being pushed by the Turkish government, one that could redraw the lines of the old Ottoman Empire:

Тhe spat erupted after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan took the country and the region by surprise last month by calling into question the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, which defined modern Turkey’s borders.  He declared Turkey had been blackmailed by foreign powers into giving up vast swaths of territory that were once part of the Ottoman Empire….

[A]ccording to visiting Carnegie Europe scholar Sinan Ulgen[:]  “The message should be seen more of a signal in relation to Turkish polices towards the south, Syria and Iraq. I read it as a backdrop to a policy that tries to build domestic support for a more long-term presence, particularly in Syria, by pointing out, at allegedly past historical mistakes,” Ulgen said.

Turkish forces are currently in Syria and Iraq. But the Turkish presence at the Bashiqa base, close to the Iraqi city of Mosul, has become the center of a deepening dispute with Baghdad. The base is ostensibly tor training Sunni militia to fight Islamic State.

On Tuesday, Erdogan dismissed Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s calls to withdraw Turkish troops, telling him “he should know his place.”

Ulgen went on to point out that Turkey has historical claims not only to Mosul, currently contested in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS).   Both Mosul and oil-rich Kirkuk were part of the original design of the modern-day Turkey.  The Turks’ traditionalists and nationalists view the treaty that gave them away as having been forced on them at the end of World War I.

If Russian diplomacy can broker a deal that allows Turkey to expand into Iraq and Syria, it could cement Turkey’s move into Russia’s sphere.  Until recently, that looked unlikely at best.  Last year, Turkmen fighters shot down a Russian jet over repeated incursions by the Russian air force.  At that time, relations between the two nations became quite tense.  Russia is backing Iran’s play in the region, apparently in the hope that a powerful Shi’a Iran will create a buffer zone between Russia and the Sunni jihadist forces that have acted to inflame Muslim minorities in Central Asia.  Likewise, the war in the Middle East draws attention away from Russia’s strategic moves in Eastern Europe, such as last week’s deployment of nuclear missiles on the very borders of Poland and the Baltic States.

Turkey’s latest move appears likely to inflame Iraq’s government, and Russia’s ally Iran intends to control Iraq at the end of this conflict.  Surrendering territory, especially oil-rich territory, may be a difficult negotiation.  On the other hand, Kirkuk is also disputed with the Kurds, and whichever government formally holds it after the war is going to have to fight to keep it.  Iran may be willing to be persuaded to concede the fight to Turkey in return for a more firmly-controlled corridor between Tehran and the Levant.

That will require some subtle diplomacy to negotiate, but right now Russia is having significant success in its diplomatic moves.  In the wake of a new energy deal between Turkey and Russia, the Russian diplomatic corps seems to have a lot of momentum on its side.  Turkey was already looking away from NATO and Europe in the wake of its Islamist purge following an alleged attempted coup.  Should Russia be able to get a process of negotiation going between Turkey, Iraq and Iran on the issue of Turkish territorial expansion, Russia would assume the leadership role in the region.  Should it actually resolve the negotiations successfully, it could expect Turkey to become part of the Russian sphere of influence.  That would potentially derail NATO, as NATO’s decisions must be taken by a unanimous vote.  If Turkey becomes as strong a Russian ally as China, NATO could become as useless an organ for opposing Russian ambition as the United Nations Security Council (on which Russia has a veto).

American diplomacy is meanwhile spinning its wheels.  The United States broke off talks with Russia, and then called for war crimes investigations into Russia and Assad for their campaign in Syria.  American Secretary of State John F. Kerry also accused Russia of interfering with America’s elections.  However, it appears that Kerry now wants a new push for a cease-fire in Aleppo, which would require Syria and Russia to sign on.

American diplomatic weakness is partially a function of American military weakness in the region.  Russian diplomatic success is partially likewise a function of its deployment of air and naval-gunnery forces, as well as its so-far successful alliance with Iran.  Better American leadership might help, but for now, the situation is rapidly sliding away from America and towards the Russians.

Turkey’s Dangerous Moves in Iraq

October 11, 2016

Turkey’s Dangerous Moves in Iraq, Gatestone Institute, Burak Bekdil, October 11, 2016

Turkey’s primary concern is not to drive ISIS out of Mosul but to make it a “Sunni-controlled city” after ISIS has been pushed out. And this ambition jeopardizes the planned assault on ISIS.

Turkey’s pretext is that its troops are in Iraq to “fight ISIS.” That does not convince anyone.

In a span of five years Turkey has had serious political and military tensions with several countries in its vicinity: Israel, Syria, Russia, Jordan, Egypt, Cyprus and Greece. Most recently, Iraq has also joined the club of hostilities surrounding Turkey.

Despite the Iraqi government’s vehement requests that Turkey withdraw its troops in Iraq, Ankara shrugs it off and says it will maintain its military presence in the neighboring country for “Iraq’s stability.” What a nice neighborly gesture! Behind the Turkish indifference lies sectarian concerns and ambitions.

On October 1, Turkey’s parliament extended the mandate of Turkish troops deployed in Iraqi territory by one more year. The troops are stationed near Bashiqa in northern Iraq — as unwanted guests. That sparked a row with Baghdad and may further complicate the cold sectarian war between the Sunnis in the region, supported by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and their Shiite enemies, supported by Iran and the Shiite-controlled government in Baghdad.

1937(Image source: TRTWorld video screenshot)

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi renewed the call for the withdrawal of Turkish soldiers from his country and warned that Turkey’s military adventurism could trigger another war in the Middle East. He said: “We do not want to enter into a military confrontation with Turkey … The Turkish insistence on [its] presence inside Iraqi territories has no justification.”

The Iraqi parliament said in a statement: “The Iraqi government must consider Turkish troops as hostile occupying forces.”

Baghdad has also requested an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to discuss the issue. The UNSC should “shoulder its responsibility and adopt a resolution to end to the Turkish troops’ violation of Iraq’s sovereignty,” said Ahmad Jamal, spokesman for the Iraqi Foreign Ministry.

The Turkish move does not annoy only Iraq, but also its Western allies. Col. John Dorrian, the spokesman for the US-led coalition of 65 countries that fight the Islamic State (ISIS), said that Turkish troops in Iraq are not acting as part of the alliance. Dorrian said that Turkey is operating “on its own” in Iraq. He added that the coalition position is that every unit “should be here with the coordination or and with the permission of the government of Iraq.”

By October 9, things started to get more annoying. Iraq’s Ambassador to Turkey, Hisham Alawi,said:

“If we do not reach some result, the Iraqi government will be forced to consider other options, and by doing so, Iraq would be practicing its right to defend its sovereignty and Iraq’s interests.”

Ankara remains defiant. Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said that Turkish troops would remain in Iraq. Turkey’s pretext is that its troops are in Iraq to “fight ISIS.” That does not convince anyone. Turkey’s intention is largely sectarian (read: pro-Sunni) and Yildirim admitted that in a not-so-subtle way when he said that the Turkish troops were in Iraq also “to make sure that no change to the region’s ‘demographic structure’ is imposed by force.”

Turkey fears that the aftermath of a planned assault on Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city and ISIS’s Iraqi stronghold, could see a heavy Shiite and Kurdish dominance in the Mosul area. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said: “Involving Shiite militias in the operation [against IS] will not bring peace to Mosul. On the contrary, it will increase problems.” Unsurprisingly Turkey’s pro-Sunni Islamists want Sunni dominance in a foreign country. This is not the first time they passionately do so.

The problem is that Turkey’s sectarian ambitions come at a time when the coalition is preparing a heavy offensive on ISIS-controlled Mosul. Turkey’s primary concern is not to drive ISIS out of Mosul but to make it a “Sunni-controlled city” after ISIS has been pushed out. And this ambition jeopardizes the planned assault on ISIS.

Iraqis think that the offensive to retake Mosul from ISIS is unlikely to begin as long as Turkish troops remain in Iraq. “I think that as long as these Turkish troops remain around Mosul, the operation to control the city will not start, or there must be a new agreement for the Turkish force not to take part in the offensive,” said Iraqi lawmaker Abdelaziz Hasan, also a member of the defense and security committee at the Iraqi parliament.

Turkey’s sectarian ambitions in neighboring Syria have ended up in total failure and bloodshed. Now Ankara wants to try another sectarian adventure in another neighboring and near-failed state, under the pretext of “bringing stability.” Yildirim said that Turkey “bears responsibility for stability in Iraq.” That is simply funny. You cannot bring stability to a country that looks more like a battleground of multiple religious wars than a country with just a few hundred troops.