The battle of Mosul is under way. The fighting between Islamic State and coalition forces started this week. But an important partner in this war, Turkey, has been shot to the corner, and has not been allowed to participate in the struggle to get the Islamic state overthrown from power. To extremely big annoyance for Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who in that way feels overruled, ignored and overlooked. Especially considering that Erdogan has clearly indicated that Turkey wanted to participate in the struggle against Islamic State in Mosul.
Shortly before the Battle of Mosul was officially initiated, Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider Al-Abadi, declared that Turkey could not in any event participate in the war operation. That attitude he has American support for.
Washington has repeatedly stressed that there can be no foreign forces in Iraq without the prior permission of the Iraqi team. In addition, Erdogan reiterated its ease of lakonism that US forces him known invaded Iraq 14 years ago without prior permission. And so there are so many things you can talk about compared to American act in the Middle East.
The question is why Turkey would like to participate in the struggle for Mosul. And not least, why is Turkey not allowed to go? Turkish Bishops have already been stationed in the Bashiqa camp near Mosul. It’s not with Iraq’s good will. On the contrary, from the Iraqi side, this presence of Turkish troops in the camp is considered a definite occupying power.
The prolonged course of the struggle for Mosul poses a risk of creating great rifts between the many different ethnic and religious groups. It is the survival mechanism in its purest form. Where before Iraker and then Sunni, Shia, Muslim, Christian, Yazid, Kurds, Arab, the ethnic or religious marker will now become the primary and crucial definition over the national identity.
But with the usual American sense of double play, one has signed a deal that Turkish troops can stay in the camp as long as they do not move one meter outside its area. Thus, while from an official US team, Iraq’s no support for Turkish interference in the conflict. If, as a reader, you should be just the least surrounded by this arrangement, it’s only natural.
So while Turkey has troops in the Bashiq camp, which trains Kurdish Pershmerga troops and other anti-IS forces, the Turkish troops themselves have no access to participate in the decisive battle against Islamic state.
In previous blog posts , I’ve described the importance of Turkey being “where it snows”. The country’s needs just do not deal primarily or specifically with fighting the Islamic state. But to ensure Turkey’s interests, including an overview of the many different Kurdish groups in both Turkey, Iraq and Syria. Because these groups are considered to be a threat to Turkey’s security.
For precisely this reason, Erdogan will participate in the battle of Mosul to ensure that no agreements are reached between the US and Kurdish groups. Agreements that – in Turkish optics – could pose a threat to Turkey’s security. And with a historical backdrop of American act in the area, one can hardly imagine Turkey in having more nervous moves about being held outside.
Turkey in one arm’s length, please
However, from the Iraqi side, it is equally important to keep Turkey at arm’s length. The great scare scenario for Iraq is to end like Syria, the total meltdown of a nation. A nation that is now just reduced to a war scene for all-out-of-the-world players with their own agenda. And apparently it is not only peace that is at the top of these agendas.
It is therefore imperative for Iraq to maintain and maintain a minimum of sovereignty. If not in reality, then at least in theory. With the presence of Islamic States in Iraq, primarily in Mosul, and with coalition forces from, among others, the United States and Iran’s assistance in Iraq, the country is only a hairline from resembling Syria. All the ingredients for such a scenario are as such present. For this reason, you do not want a Turkish presence in the country. Not to make another foreign state power to an actor in the region with its own agenda, which basically does not necessarily benefit Iraq’s continued existence.
Why the battle of Mosul is crucial
The actual battle about Mosul and the removal of IS from power is expected to take several months, perhaps even until spring 2017. In other words, it is not over in an afternoon. The consequences of this prolonged war scenario are not just large refugee flows out of the area and humanitarian disasters in line with what we passively witness in Syria.
This prolonged course will also pose a risk of creating great rifts between the many different ethnic and religious groups. Cuts that you have not necessarily had before but that are generated during war situations.
The Iraqi government must prove its ability and unity to reconcile old enemies, forgive old sins (and they are many in this process), create common ground and will to look forward, and form the ground for a joint reconstruction work, not just the purely infrastructural, but equally mental, psychological in a post-traumatic society.
It is the survival mechanism in its purest form. Where before Iraker and then Sunni, Shia, Muslim, Christian, Yazid, Kurds, Arab, the ethnic or religious marker will now become the primary and crucial definition over the national identity. There are such mechanisms that create the ground for any radicalism and civil war, if you do not at state level have a real plan of what is going to happen to Mosul when first losing control of the city.
The Art of Promoting a Community After IS
For that very reason, the battle of Mosul is so crucial. Because it will be a school example of what government management really is – and what states can. The government in Baghdad will have to show if it can lift the task; to gather the people of Mosul on top of a nightmare – far from over yet. It has to prove that it has the abilities and the duty to reconcile old enemies, forgive old sins (and they are many in this process), create common ground and willingness to look forward, and form the basis for a joint reconstruction work , not only the purely infrastructural, but also the mental, psychological in a society that is in a post-traumatic state.
If you fail to remove sectarian turmoil in the area and corruption, you will only get a new nightmare to replace IS. Therefore, it is vital that the reconstruction work with Mosul succeeds. To prove that Iraq is not a new Syria. This is a very big task for the Iraqi government. If the ability to lift this task, only time will show.
No wish for Turkish interference
For the same reason, Turkish presence in the area is absolutely not something that will serve the Iraqi government’s agenda and a major task ahead. On the contrary, Erdogan’s political aspirations in Iraq will only exacerbate the prospects for a success story.
If Turkey were to get a foot in the aftermath of power games, Ankara will certainly play the “Sunni Card” and try to secure the Sunni people in Mosul and their interests. But playing on different ethnic and religious markers will be directly against the Iraqi government’s policy and work, which will be based on a national discourse, not ethnic or religious.
For this reason, Baghdad has made it very clear that in no way do you ever want so-called Turkish aid either in the fight against IS or otherwise in another way.
What now, Turkey?
It is beyond doubt that this refusal will in no way fall in good ground with the government of Ankara. Being held outside is not something that generally fits President Erdogan.
The man does not have it easy at all these days. It appears that Turkey’s only support is currently in Saudi Arabia. The question is then what Turkey can politically and strategically use the alliance to. Of course nothing.
Saudi Arabia is busy bombing Yemen, collapses peacefully without the world’s great attention. For the same reason, Saudi Arabia has neither the time nor the desire to promote Turkey’s interest in respect of their long-standing and faithful partner, the United States. No need to draw attention to circumstances when you have a small war running in your own backyard. In other words, Turkey is all alone in the schoolyard without being able to collect a team of teammates on its own. The question is how President Erdogan will re-position himself and Turkey as a regional superpower and important actor in the new power struggle in Iraq when Mosul is freed from IS.
Wikimedia commons. President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, participated in the ceremony held on the occasion of Victory Day, August 30, 2014