Stratfor explains: Has a Turkish military spearhead penetrated northern Iraq?

Summary: Here Stratfor examines rumors that Turkey’s army has entered the fighting in Iraq. If true, it’s a serious expansion of a conflict that already looks like the early stages of the Thirty Years War that devastated central Europe. This might not be an increase of Turkey’s involvement, but such a step might be coming. Watch this story.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

Stratfor

The Routine Nature of Turkey’s Presence in Iraq

Stratfor, 4 December 2015

In keeping with the adage that things are seldom what they seem, reports from Dec. 4 that a Turkish military spearhead had penetrated northern Iraq were exaggerated. Local news media claimed that three Turkish regiments entered Iraqi territory on Dec. 3, deploying in the vicinity of the Islamic State-held city of Mosul in Nineveh province. As it turns out, this supposed Turkish intervention was simply a small rotation of forces, switching out troops assigned to a routine training mission across the border. Ankara reportedly has been training Kurdish peshmerga and other Sunni volunteer forces in the Kurdish-controlled regions of Iraq since November 2014.

The dispatch of 130 Turkish troops — described as a battalion but closer to the size of an infantry company — is much less remarkable than the commitment of three regiments. The presence of these soldiers will not alter the course of the operation to retake Mosul, nor affect its timeline, though formal military training may assist the overall fight against the Islamic State. It also is not an anomalous move by Ankara: In addition to ongoing training operations in Kurdish areas, there is a Turkish military presence in the Amedi district of Dohuk province to combat revolutionaries from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, also known by its Kurdish acronym, the PKK.

Initial reports from local news agencies alleged that Turkish troops entered Iraqi territory on Dec. 3, massing at the Nargizliya camp (also known as al-Shekhan camp), a militia base in Shekhan District. The Turkish military uses the location to train Sunni volunteer forces. The Nargizliya camp sits on the internal border between Dohuk and Nineveh provinces and has so far processed around 3,500 combatants that are now actively involved in operations against the Islamic State.

Media reports also suggested that an assault on Mosul was imminent. News agencies cited an anonymous peshmerga official as well as sources from a militia known as the National Crowd for Liberating Nineveh. The sources claimed that the three supposed Turkish regiments would help forces in the region assault and reclaim Mosul. Hours after the statement was released, however, several local leaders denied the report, including Nineveh Gov. Nawfal Humadi, Nineveh Operations Command chief Maj. Gen. Najim al-Jubouri and representatives of the Kurdistan Democratic Party.

Map of Iraq and Turkey

When analyzing the situation, Stratfor noted the very tenuous reporting on these movements. In our initial assessment, we advised that the information should be regarded with extreme caution. The size, nature and intent of Turkish forces, as indicated, were a misrepresentation. Rather than Ankara facilitating the training of the National Crowd for Liberating Nineveh, inaccurate reporting suggested an actual deployment of large Turkish units for a mission to retake Mosul.

Turkey’s limited training presence is part of the regional coalition against the Islamic State, and it was put in place with Baghdad’s consent. This rotation of forces is a clear illustration of the persistent commitment by Turkey to train Sunni elements in Iraq, and simply one component of Turkey’s deepening involvement in its Middle Eastern periphery. Ankara’s activities in Iraq go hand-in-hand with Turkey’s plans to support offensive operations against the Islamic State and the government of Syrian President Bashar al Assad.

The Routine Nature of Turkey’s Presence in Iraq
is republished with permission of Stratfor.

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For More Information

(a)  Iraq’s reaction to Turkey’s troop movement: “Iraq summons Turkey’s ambassador over troop deployment near Mosul” (Reuters), 5 December. Opening:

Iraq’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Turkish ambassador on Saturday to demand that Turkey immediately withdraw hundreds of troops deployed in recent days to northern Iraq, near the Islamic State-controlled city of Mosul. The ministry said in a statement the Turkish forces had entered Iraqi territory without the knowledge of the central government in Baghdad, and that Iraq considered such presence “a hostile act”.

But Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the troop rotation was routine and that Turkish forces had set up a camp near Mosul almost a year ago in coordination with Iraqi authorities. “This camp was established as a training camp for a force of local volunteers fighting terrorism,” he said in a speech to a labor union that was broadcast live by NTV news channel.

 

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