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Iraq – Caught in the Middle

Iraq – Caught in the Middle

Once again it appears the Iraq is caught in the middle. This time, they are stuck between Turkey and Iran in a battle for influence in Sinjar province. Al Monitor reports that in their attempt to further push out the PKK, Turkey is increasingly focused on Iraq’s Sinjar province increasing tensions with Iran for influence there. They report:

Turkey’s quest for a military campaign to drive Kurdish militants out of the northern Iraqi region of Sinjar has refueled the Turkish-Iranian rivalry for influence in oil-rich Mosul, which many Turks see as a lost Ottoman legacy.

Unfortunately, the Turkish – Iranian rivalry has Iraq stuck in the middle and it further complicates the situation in Syria. The report continues:

Earlier this week, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was quoted as saying that Tehran “reject[s] the Turkish military presence in Syria and Iraq and consider[s] Ankara’s policies toward Damascus and Baghdad to be wrong.” In remarks to a Turkish news agency, an unnamed Iranian Foreign Ministry official denied Zarif had made the remarks, yet the rift between the two countries is showing on the ground. 

While Turkey was targeting camps of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in the Gara mountains in northern Iraq in mid-February, the Popular Mobilization Units — an Iranian-backed Iraqi militia known also as Hashd al-Shabi — deployed three brigades to Sinjar, which lies to the west of Mosul along the Syrian border. Militia commanders made it clear the deployment was meant to counter Turkey’s “threat” in the region. 

Turkey cites the PKK presence in Sinjar as the cause for its concern, but its calculations go farther to Mosul. Iran, for its part, highlights the need to prevent the revival of the Islamic State, but it, too, has a broader calculus.

For Turkey, however, there may be more at stake than the PKK…back to the article:

The AKP has tended to view Mosul in the Ottoman administrative framework — that is, the Mosul Vilayet, comprised of the districts of Mosul, Kirkuk and Sulaimaniyah. In other words, Sulaimaniyah, Erbil and Dohuk, the three regions that make Iraqi Kurdistan today, were part of the Ottoman Mosul province. Tellingly, the AKP has encouraged the Turkmens of Kirkuk and Tell Afar to collaborate with the Kurds. The underlying thinking of such perspectives — never declared politically but discussed hypothetically — holds that since Turkey has failed to prevent the emergence of an autonomous Kurdistan, then the entire historical Mosul Vilayet should become autonomous and Turkey should lie in wait for an opportunity to annex the region.

The article continues detailing how both Turkey and Iran have sought to gain influence in the oil rich region of Mosul and has left Iraq once again squeezed in the middle. For many, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been defining points in their lives. If you are at all interested in the region, the article is definitely worth your time.

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