Strategic goals of Turkey in its military invasion in the north of Iraq

2021/05/17 | interview, political, top news

Strategic Council Online—Interview: A university professor says if tensions are de-escalated in Iraq and the central government is able to control the situation including in all military and economic centers, the Turkish government and other trans-regional governments could not be able to exert influence in that country.

Referring to the recent tensions between Iraq and Turkey and Turkey’s decision to set up military bases in the north of Iraq, Davood Ahmadzadeh told the Strategic Council on Foreign Relations that Ankara is worried about the activities of Kurdish separatists near its border with Iraq and has therefore decided to establish military bases in the north of Iraq.

He pointed to the history of the establishment of the Kurdistan region in Iraq and the Turkish military strike against PKK and Kurdish opposition groups inside Iraq, saying the Kurds account for about 30 percent of the population in Turkey and their alliance and convergence are considered a threat to the national security of Turkey.

Iraq’s concerns about Turkish dominance in Northern provinces

Ahmadzadeh added that Turkey’s foreign policy and expansionist and excessive approaches have influenced its decision to establish military bases in the north of Iraq.

“Turkish officials, given the strategic significance of Iraq’s Kurdistan for them, are trying to expand their influence in the north of Iraq—an issue which has created differences between Turkey and Iraq,” he said, referring to the recent stances taken by the president of Turkey, as quoted by several MPs in the Iraqi parliament, concerning a new plan by Ankara to dominate some Iraqi provinces.

Turkey seeking to neutralize Biden’s probable policy towards the Kurds

Ahmadzadeh said Ankara is concerned about the probable future policy of Joe Biden concerning the Kurds and the probability of stronger US support for them and is therefore devising strategies to neutralize such a role.

He added that Iraq’s security experts had earlier warned about the US plans in the triangular border of Iraq with Syria and Turkey.

“Turkish officials in general tide their excessive demands and military movements and strikes in the north of Iraq to their plan to prevent the infiltration and influence of the Kurdish groups and the PKK in the lead. In this way, they justify such strikes; however, economic and military issues should be also considered beyond such justification. This has made the Iraqi government to take action and on some occasions, we witnessed the severance of relations between Turkey and Iraq.”

Ahmadzadeh pointed to the late reaction of Iraqi officials to the decision of Turkey to set up military bases and continue air strikes in the north of Iraq, as well as the uncoordinated presence of Turkey’s defense minister in Iraq’s territories, saying the Turks are exploiting serious economic problems in Iraq and the many differences between the Kurdistan region and the central government and are therefore seeking to increase their presence and influence in Iraq’s Kurdistan. This can pose a threat to the central government as well as the national security of Iraq.

Internal differences in Iraq and Turkish military intervention

Ahmadzadeh referred to the killing of several Turkish soldiers in the north of Iraq and the prospects of developments in this region and said the continued military presence of Turkey in this region depends on the political future of Iraq and its decision to strengthen unified sovereignty and reduce domestic disputes.

“This is Iraq’s Kurdistan which has allowed foreign governments including Turkey and even Israel to exert security and intelligence influence in the north of Iraq due to the age-old difference between the Kurdistan region and the central government in Baghdad. This can pose serious threats to the whole region and could cause regional conflict and tension. ”

Emphasizing the necessity of resolving disputes and differences between the Kurdistan region and the central government in Baghdad over the distribution of power and resources, he said if tensions are reduced inside Iraq and a central and powerful government could control the situation and all military and economic centers are brought into the control of the central government in future, the government of Turkey and other trans-regional governments would not have the opportunity to influence Iraq.

He said Turkey is benefiting from such differences between the Kurdistan region and the central government of Iraq to advance its regional goals, adding that Turkey is trying to establish closer relations with Iraq’s Kurds to suppress the Kurdish community in Turkey as well as the PKK.

Iraq would not become a “second Syria”

Asked about some analyzes about Turkey’s efforts to have permanent military presence in the north of Iraq and set up a “second Syria” in this region, he said “even though it is said that Turkey aims to create a safe border line and repeat the Syria scenario in the north of Iraq under the excuse of the PKK elements, Iraq does not enjoy the capacity and capability to turn into a second Syria crisis. After the collapse of the Daesh and Takfiri groups inside Iraq, the central government has been able to provide security across the country. In fact, tensions and chaos which could have resulted in disintegration of Iraq have been diminished.”

Ahmadzadeh said the issue of differences between the central government and the Kurdistan region of Iraq is historical and the central government should settle its differences with the Kurdistan leadership through internal talks.

He added that the possibility of Turkey’s intervention in Iraq would gravely reduce if tensions are removed between the central government and the Kurdistan region through political talks.

Iraq’s opposition to political role-playing by Turkey

Referring to the critical positions of Iraqi officials to Turkey’s political role-playing in Iraq, he said the government of the region would not be indifferent to Turkish intervention and military movements in Iraq. They want a secure, independent and committed Iraq. In fact, any further interventionist and excessive demands of Turkey may entail serious reaction by Iraq’s neighbors which could be unpleasant for Turkey in the future.

Asked about the strategic goals of Turkey in trying to strengthen its presence in the north of Iraq and the possibility of influence on the political ambience and upcoming elections in Iraq, Ahmadzadeh said Turkey is not capable to exert direct influence on the votes of the people of Iraq and decide their political future.

“The new government of Iraq is seeking to terminate internal crises and attain authority and independent sovereignty in the region and it is even playing the role of a mediator between some countries in the region. It seems that Turkey’s efforts to create influence in Iraq are in line with its confrontation with Kurdish separatists and if Turkey wants to play a role in the political future of Iraq, the people of Iraq would not allow this to happen.”

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