With the ongoing struggles in Mosul with Kurdish, Iraqi troops and the international coalition force against IS, there is busy in northern Iraq these days. It is just a matter of time before Mosul is freed from Islamic State. But that does not mean that the war is over, writes Yasmin Abdel-Hak.
On the contrary, the struggles like mentioned in previous blog posts may mean the beginning of a new battle . There are many different groups involved in this war against IS. And each of them has its own agenda with its own interests that are desired and goals to be achieved. One of these important players is the Kurdish Pershmergaer. They play an important role in the struggle and are historically known to be highly skilled soldiers. They are therefore also involved in the fight against IS in the battle of Mosul.
However, their position in the actual combat actions is a very important indicator of the subsequent power game that everyone is waiting for breaking out once IS has disappeared from the area. The Iraqi Persian Army soldiers are not included in the actual city war in Mosul. They are out in the outskirts of the battle actions. They have thus had a very important role in clearing landing roads and IS-occupied villages prior to the actual entrance to Mosul city.
Why is it that such skilled soldiers are not allowed to participate in this crucial phase of the war; At the very core of this war scenario against IS?
The Kurdish Power Factor
A qualified bid for this is the constant threat of the Kurdish power factor in the area. A threat, as both the Iraqi and Turkish governments are painfully aware of. And in this context, the removal of IS from Mosul is their smallest problem.
As a Kurdish leader, stated to The Guardian recently when he explained why the Kurds did not participate in Mosul himself: They can have Mosul. We do not want it. All we want is the Kurdish country that Saddam took from us. After that we can build a real country.
And it is an opinion that must give the governments in both Ankara and Baghdad nervous drafts and sweat droplets in the buttocks. For the Kurds already have the autonomous Kurdish region in Nordirak, which merely shows that the ambitions do not fail. They must be taken seriously – and they will be.
Following the introduction of the airbase zone over the area in 1991, the previously very fragile autonomy area enjoyed greater independence. In 1992, the first Kurdish National Assembly in Nordirak was founded. The area was for many years characterized by power struggles between conflicting political parties. However, they entered into a cooperation agreement in 1998. The area was granted regional autonomy status in the Iraqi constitution of 2005 and was appointed the same year as its own president.
It is an opinion that must give the governments in both Ankara and Baghdad nervous drafts and sweat droplets in the crest … The Kurds already have the autonomous Kurdish area in Nordirak.
In other words, the Kurds have undergone a change from having been a constant annoyance under Saddam Hussein’s rule to now constitute a decisive power factor and actor in the regional scene. An actor who can play a very big role in the upcoming political landscape in both Turkey, Iraq and Syria.
Not common ground for the Kurdish threat
With this new actor on stage, one should think it was obvious whether Turkey and Iraq found common ground against the common “enemy” and threat to their states and boundaries.
But this does not seem to have happened. On the contrary.
Turkey has much against the will of Iraq stationed troops inside Iraq with the declared goal to participate in the battle of Mosul. The Iraqi government has protested violently and demanded that the Turkish troops be withdrawn immediately. It has not happened. The Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has once again declared himself incompetent of Baghdad’s reaction. He pointed out that Mosul is a part of the Turkish sphere of interest, so it is only natural to have Turkish troops present in Iraq. Thus the world according to Erdogan.
The Turkmen minority in Mosul
Seen from Ankara this is not so shrouded. There is a great Turkmen minority in Mosul. It is of Turkish origin, from when the area belonged to the Ottoman Empire, whose interests Turkey still wishes to take care of. The Turkmen are a mixture of both Sunni and Shi Muslims. They constitute the third largest population group in Iraq. In connection with the battle of Mosul, several Turkmen voices have begun to talk about a province for Turkmenans.
But this ethnic group is split up between Sunni and Shi Muslims. And just this Shi-Muslim component is not exactly what suits Turkish President Erdogan. He sees the group as part of a major Iranian conspiracy against all the Sunni Muslims in the area. However, the fact that the southern Turkmen begin to talk about self-government in the area fits well into the interests of Erdogan.
Secondly, it reinforces the argument for a still Turkish presence in the area with the task of protecting the Turkmen minority. Secondly, the creation of a Turkmen self-government area will minimize the potential area that the Kurds would have to try to get under the Kurdish autonomy area.
What does an important NATO partner like Turkey do? An important partner, who honestly behaves like the naughty boy in the back row of the class. Can you beat a NATO alliance in place? Can you?
In other words, Erdogan will be very well in trouble in the area and power struggles between the various ethnic and religious groups, because the situation will be disturbing – and perhaps even undermining – for the Kurdish project of state formation in the region.
However, the world does not look like Baghdad. The Iraqi government has no intention of allowing Turkey to play a role in the subsequent power game about Mosul. It is essential for Baghdad to play the lead role as the only actor capable of rebuilding Mosul and the region as part of the Iraqi nation. In this context, Turkish presence will only seem destructive to the process. For the same reason, the Iraqi President also recently announced that Iraq was ready to declare war against Turkey, whose troops were not immediately withdrawn.
In addition, the Turkish Foreign Minister noted that if Iraq werestrong enough to declare war against Turkey, one could wonder that they even allowed the Kurds to have a self-government area. In other words, it is a threat that Turkey does not take particularly seriously. But there are others who do. Among other US.
The region can not bear another war.
Turkey is Natopartner and naughty boy
But what do you do with an important NATO partner like Turkey? An important partner, who honestly behaves like the naughty boy in the back row of the class. Can you beat a NATO alliance in place? Can you?
The government in Baghdad has asked the United States to put Turkey in place in this affair once and for all. But it will undeniably put the US in a somewhat precarious situation, all the while Turkey is a very important alliance. For the time being, nothing has happened. Turkey has not been put in place by the United States, and the country still has troops inside Mosul, to ever-increasing annoyance for the Iraqi government. And the result is thus a round of cold water that has not solved the potentially dangerous conflict.
While the battle of Mosul is in progress, all involved players are waiting on time after Mosul has won. Then the real battle for Mosul begins.
Quite strategically, this dispute between the Iraqi and Turkish governments is only for the benefit of the Kurds. It removes focus from the “Kurdish threat”. And then, in peace and peace, you can arrange such geopolitical and strategic issues as extending the Kurdish autonomy and establishing a real Kurdish state. Without Bagdad or Ankara having time to mingle.
So far, Iraqi troops continue to collaborate with Kurdish Persharms and the International Coalition Force against Islamic State in the Battle of Mosul. With the Kurdish soldiers out on the sidelines. They do not participate in the matches inside the Mosul itself. Instead, they make ready to claim the country they lost during the reign of Saddam Hussein.
And while the battle of Mosul is in progress, all involved actors are waiting on time after Mosul has won. Before that, the real battle for Mosul begins.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons: U.S. Army photo by SPC Anderson Savoy. http://www.dvidshub.net/image/216893/reflexive-fire-drill. 13. oktober 2009. Peshmerga soldiers march in formation as they prepare for a reflexive fire drill, conducted by U.S. Soldiers assigned to Golf Battery, 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, in Qarahangeer, Kirkuk, Iraq, Oct. 13. 2009.