The battle for Mosul: conflicting agendas of Turkey and Iraq

Developing Just Leadership

Catherine Shakdam

Rabi' al-Awwal 01, 1438 2016-12-01

News & Analysis

by Catherine Shakdam (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 45, No. 10, Rabi' al-Awwal, 1438)

Turkish forces are present in the operation against the takfiris in Mosul without the agreement of the Iraqi government. The two governments have conflicting agendas.

The campaign for Mosul is more than a simple counter-terror exercise, at least as far as Turkey is concerned, since Baghdad’s strategic alliance with the Kurds has exposed those geopolitical fault lines the region has had to contend with since time immemorial.

If Baghdad and Ankara agree — for the most part, that Da‘ish needs to be pushed out of Mosul, the two have vastly different ideas on how to achieve this goal. It is important to note that if Turkey has been a rather outspoken critic of Da‘ish of late, Ankara’s leadership remains deeply embedded within the terror network’s financial and ideological complex.

It would be simplistic to assume that Turkey is sincere in confronting the takfiri terrorists. Ankara has benefitted enormously from the emergence of Da‘ish both in Iraq and Syria, a strategic partner and enabler of the so-called caliphate, as the group has siphoned off the region’s natural resources and sold their sovereignty in the black market. Precious historical artefacts from Syria and Iraq have been plundered and sold off cheaply to eager and exploitative Westerners via Zionist middlemen.

In October, the German government’s state broadcaster, ARD reported, “Turkey has worked with Islamist groups and has supported militant organizations in the Middle East for years.” The view was expressed in a confidential response from the interior ministry to parliamentary questions from left-wing party Die Linke. The response was seen by ARD. The ministry added that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had actively supported cooperation with Islamist and terrorist organizations, such as Hamas.

“The many expressions of solidarity and support actions for the Egyptian MB [Muslim Brotherhood], Hamas, and the armed Islamist opposition groups in Syria by the ruling AK Party and President Erdo─čan emphasize the ideological affinity with the Muslim Brotherhood,” the ministry statement said.

Turkey, under the policy initiatives of President (and former prime minister) Erdogan, has been playing a dangerous game in deploying ISIS, first against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Asad, and now against the PKK, all under the cover of claiming to rid the region of terrorists. The European and American media has allowed him to get away with this duplicity because Turkey is acting as a buffer for the influx of Syrian refugees into Western Europe. So far, Turkey has taken over two million refugees from the war-torn region to its south, which makes the relatively paltry numbers taken in by the rest of the EU countries combined look like a joke. And so long as Turkey takes the bulk of the refugees, few complaints will be heard from the champions of human rights in the world, all of whom would rather not have this riffraff in their own countries, despite the fact that, together with Erdogan, they have done everything in their power to destroy Syria for Israel — even going to the extent of arming and sheltering ISIS, and opening up lucrative markets for the sale of its stolen oil.

The statement, based on information from Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service (BND), added that “as a result of the gradually Islamized domestic and foreign policy of Ankara since 2011, Turkey has become the central platform for action for Islamist groups in the Middle East.” In the West, there is a tendency to lump all groups under the now convenient label of terrorists. While Da‘ish is a terrorist organization, Hamas, the Islamic group struggling for the liberation of Palestine against the Zionist invaders and occupiers is not. One may disagree with some of the decisions made by the Hamas leadership but lumping them with the throat-slitting and organ-eating takfiris is a gross distortion and a great injustice.

Of course, there are a few that are still under the impression that Turkey has been a loyal servant of peace and stability when everything its officials have done since 2011 has been to erode both Iraq and Syria’s territorial integrity to rip lucrative benefits from their compounded misery. But the Kurdish dossier has complicated things. Where Ankara cares little for its neighbours’ sovereignty, it does nevertheless value its own. Beyond that, President Erdogan would not mind playing the imperial power, and thus see the restoration of the old Ottoman Sultanate, starting with Syria, and then Iraq.

Turkey has historic and cultural ties with Mosul and its Sunni Arab and Turkomen populations. There is even a sense among Turkish leaders, as expressed by President Erdogan’s chief adviser Ilnur Cevik, that this region, along with northern Syria, should have never been relinquished after the First World War. Key Arabian leaders in Mosul have a similar appreciation for shared history and view strong ties with Turkey as a critical component of balance in dealing with the threat of Shi‘i militias and Iran. Turkey believes that the Sunni Turkomen population of the area is particularly vulnerable and has voiced concerns about possible plans by Iran and sectarian militias to force demographic changes by displacing Sunni Turkomen populations from areas around Mosul such as Tel Afar.

In this power play, the Kurds, as a separate entity, have no seat at the table. Within this political paradigm, the Kurds ought to politically revert to being subservient pawns to the Turks and set aside their own aspirations and ambitions. Given their long history of struggle and shifting alliances, some quite unsavoury, the Kurds are easy to demonize.

Now that Baghdad has enrolled the help of the Kurds to defend Iraq and liberate Mosul, thus anchoring the Kurds’ geopolitical worth, Ankara fears such recognition will inspire an intifadah-type movement within its borders. But the Kurds are not what is keeping Ankara up at night, rather it is Iran’s rise as a regional superpower that is keeping the midnight oil burning in the sultan’s palace.

The rapidly-developing rapprochement between Baghdad and Tehran — which should not be seen from a sectarian perspective but a natural geopolitical evolution — has troubled Ankara to the point where President Erdogan now views Iran as its main regional contender, not Saudi Arabia. Turkey’s new sultan seems to overlook the fact, even as he pursues the dream of reviving the Ottoman Sultanate, that it was the Najdi Bedouins, under British tutelage, who were responsible for expelling the Turks from the Arabian Peninsula. This led to the division of the larger Muslim East (aka the Middle East) and even more critically, paved the way for the implantation of the Zionist entity in Palestine.

Should Mosul be liberated from the clutches of the takfiri terrorists on Baghdad’s terms, Ankara fears Iran would have a de facto opening to the Mediterranean Sea via Syria, and by extension a “say” in the region’s future.

Interestingly, it is Turkey’s geopolitical psychosis and paranoia that have led its leadership to make a terrible decision for the future, and thus possibly precipitate the fall of Turkey as a relevant regional player. Raw ambitions led by megalomania have often caused the downfall of those pursuing such grandiose plans and ultimately left them in the dust. Instead of siding with truth and justice, Erdogan has embarked on a contradictory and dangerous path. On the one hand, he allegedly claims to be protecting the Turkomen in Iraq (in and around Mosul), hence his uninvited intrusion into Iraq, and on the other he has opened his big guns against the Kurds.

Erdogan’s and Turkey’s plan is to prevent the Kurds having any significant role in the future of the region. This unfortunately has opened the Kurds to external manipulation by the Zionists and imperialists. If the Kurdish leadership lacks wisdom, Erdogan has also provided no evidence that he is willing to deal with the Kurds on the basis of fairness, equity, and justice. While his party is called the Justice and Development Party, there is neither justice nor development for the Kurds residing in Turkey. Instead, they are being relentlessly pursued inside Turkey while Erdogan harbors ambitions of grandeur, and plays with fire in Iraq and Syria.

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