Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Turkey sends troops into northern Iraq

What a day to start blogging again after a 4-year hiatus! As I type these words a new crisis is brewing between Iraq and Turkey. Ankara has deployed a contingent of troops, with enough tanks and APCs to equip a mechanized battalion, to the area of Ba'sheiqa near Mosul. The purpose, according to Turkey, is to fulfill prior agreements with Iraq to train local forces on the front line between Iraq's autonomous Kurdish Region and ISIS-held Mosul. The problem is, the government in Baghdad says there are no such agreements and demanded (on Monday) Turkish withdrawal within 48 hours. The fact that Turkey chose to ignore Baghdad's demand suggests the claim of a prior agreement is questionable. Meanwhile Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi met with his generals and asked the nascent Iraqi air force to be prepared to defend Iraq's borders. The deadline expires in just under 4 hours.

Iraq won't/can't use force against the deployed Turkish troops, but this episode will nonetheless put additional strain on relations and further polarize the region. Baghdad will look weaker and Ankara will look more thuggish. This does not set a good example for regional cooperation against ISIS. What does Turkey really want?

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