ISTANBUL/ERBIL Turkey mentioned on Monday it would not withdraw hundreds of soldiers who arrived last week at a base in northern Iraq, despite being ordered by Baghdad to pull them out inside 48 hours.
The sudden arrival of such a huge and heavily armed Turkish contingent in a camp near the frontline in northern Iraq has added but yet another controversial deployment to a war against Islamic State fighters that has drawn in most of the world’s major powers.
Ankara says the troops are there as portion of an international mission to train and equip Iraqi forces to fight against Islamic State. The Iraqi government says it never ever invited such a force, and will take its case to the United Nations if they are not pulled out.
Washington, which is leading an international coalition against Islamic State that contains Turkey, Arab states and European powers like Britain and France, has told Ankara and Baghdad to resolve the standoff, and says it does not help deployments in Iraq with out Baghdad’s consent.
The Turkish troops’ presence is an embarrassment for Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar Abadi, beneath powerful stress from strong Iran-backed Shi’ite political groups to kick them out.
Shi’ite parties linked to militia groups armed and funded by Iran have also complained about U.S. plans to station special forces in Iraq to conduct raids and guide bombs against Islamic State. Political stress on Abadi could make these plans far more tough to carry out.
Political analysts saw last week’s deployment in northern Iraq by Turkey, which has the second greatest army in NATO, as a bid to assert its influence in the face of improved Russian and Iranian involvement in Syria and Iraq.
“Turkey appears to be angling to prove to the Russians and Iranians that they will not be permitted to have either the Syrian or Iraqi war theaters only to themselves,” stated Aydin Selcen, former consul basic of Turkey in Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region.
The troops arrived on Thursday with tanks and armored personnel carriers at a camp in territory held by Iraqi Kurds near the Islamic State-held northern Iraqi city of Mosul. Ankara mentioned they have been there to support safeguard a education mission close to the front line.
“It is our duty to supply safety for our soldiers delivering education there,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in an interview on Turkey’s Kanal 24 tv.
“Everybody is present in Iraq … The objective of all of them is clear. Train-and-equip advisory support is being provided. Our presence there is not a secret,” he added.
Abadi has referred to as the Turkish deployment a violation of Iraqi sovereignty. Government spokesman Saad al-Hadithi said Iraq was nevertheless waiting for Turkey to respond officially.
“In case we have not received any optimistic indicators before the deadline we set for the Turkish side, then we maintain our legal appropriate to file a complaint to the Security Council to stop this significant violation to Iraqi sovereignty,” he stated.
A senior Turkish official mentioned Baghdad’s objections had come as a surprise: “There was no single development … that occurred without informing the central government.”
“The military personnel for education will keep. Not since we want them (there) especially but due to the fact there is a demand from the Iraqi side. The discussion with the central government still continues,” the official told reporters.
He mentioned the total quantity of Turkish troops across Iraq was considerably much less than 1,000 soldiers, with some having arrived from Turkey and others sent to the base from other parts of Iraq.
Islamic State militants overran Mosul, Iraq’s main northern city and residence to around 2 million folks, in June 2014. An expected counter-offensive by Iraqi forces has been repeatedly postponed because they are involved in fighting elsewhere.
The U.S.-led coalition has been staging air strikes on Islamic State bases in each Iraq and Syria for much more than a year.
Russia joined the regional conflict with air strikes of its personal on Syria two months ago, and like Iran is allied to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, who is opposed by Turkey, the United States and their allies. Turkey shot down a Russian warplane final month, causing a breakdown in relations with Moscow.
Brett McGurk, U.S. President Barack Obama’s envoy to the international coalition to counter Islamic State, stated on Twitter that Washington did not help missions in Iraq with no permission of Baghdad, which he stated also applied to U.S. missions there.
The camp occupied by the Turkish troops is becoming utilized by a force named Hashid Watani, or national mobilization, produced up of mainly Sunni Arab former Iraqi police and volunteers from Mosul.
It is observed as a counterweight to Shi’ite militias that have grown in clout elsewhere in Iraq with Iranian backing, and was formed by former Nineveh governor Atheel al-Nujaifi, who has close relations with Turkey. A modest quantity of Turkish trainers had been currently there prior to the newest deployment.
The government of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish area, whose safety forces handle the location where the Turks are deployed, backed up Ankara’s explanation: Thursday’s deployment was intended to expand the capacity of the instruction base, stated Safeen Dizayee, Kurdish government spokesman.
“The increase of personnel calls for some protection.”
Although Turkey is strongly suspicious of Kurds in Syria, it has great relations with Iraq’s Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani.
“Turkey, operating via the Nujaifis and the Barzanis, is attempting to establish its personal sphere of influence in northern Iraq,” stated Aaron Stein, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.
(Extra reporting by Humeyra Pamuk in Istanbul, Ahmed Rasheed in Baghdad, Orhan Coskun and Tulay Karadeniz in Ankara Writing by Nick Tattersall Editing by Pravin Char, Peter Millership and Peter Graff)