In my previous article I argued that Turkey's Operation Shah Euphrates was a military requirement since it was a move initiated by Ankara to prevent possible dangers that might develop in the region. I ended my article by mentioning a telephone conversation between Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. Sources reported that an operation to save Mosul from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) was on the agenda in the conversation. Developments since last week prove that the article presented an accurate account of what would happen since we now know that Turkey will take part in a comprehensive military operation against ISIS in Iraq, particularly in Mosul. Contributing to such an operation is important for Ankara because ISIS is not only a terrorist group creating instability in the region, but also a potential threat to Turkish borders. Furthermore, its presence in Syria undermines Syrian opponents while strengthening the regime of President Bashar Assad.
Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz paid a visit to Baghdad yesterday to draw the general outline of Turkey's contribution to the Mosul operation. While announcing his decision to visit Baghdad, Yılmaz said: "The duties of being a coalition member will be fulfilled." Before Yılmaz headed to Baghdad, two C-130 military aircraft transported Turkish aid to Iraq, landing in the al-Muthanna Military Air Base located 20 kilometers east of Baghdad. The aid was delivered to the authorities of the Iraqi Ministry of Defense. This high-ranking visit from Ankara to Baghdad and the two military aircraft sent to Baghdad have increased speculation as to the extent of Turkey's contribution to the Mosul operation. To find an answer to this question I personally interviewed numerous decision makers in Ankara. Of course, this is a delicate subject, but I can list the data and reviews I have as follows: Ankara attaches great importance to the territorial integrity and stability of Iraq. It will contribute to operations in order to break the force of ISIS and support Iraq's central government. However, this support does not mean that the Turkish Army will deploy soldiers in Iraq. The Iraqi government does not want foreign soldiers in its country either. This is the first point that needs to be underlined.
The second concerns weapons aid. Other coalition countries, including the U.S., provide the Iraqi army with military aid. Turkey also provides support to Baghdad for the modernization of the Iraqi army. However, such aid is not planned for the operation against ISIS since the Iraqi army currently has sufficient equipment. Another reason for this decision is Turkey's concern of the possibility that the weapons might be seized by ISIS. However, the Iraqi army does have some basic requirements and Ankara is ready to meet its essential needs. In the negotiations conducted with Baghdad, it was stated that the Iraqi army and tribes could be trained. It was also said that steps have already been taken toward this goal, and such work will continue. Also, training will be given in coordination with allied countries. Informing the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) of the coalition's plans and actions is one of Ankara's primary concerns.
The second field Ankara will make a contribution is logistics. The Iraqi authorities were informed that they would be provided with logistical support including medicine, food and tents that would not be used for military purposes. Though not officially revealed yet, it is thought that the aircraft sent to Baghdad probably transported such items. The third area of contribution is the sharing of intelligence. Ankara closely monitors developments in Iraq. Within this scope, the close cooperation with Iraq's central government and the KRG will continue.
When the Mosul operation was brought to the agenda, the U.S. apparently reopened the matter of the İncirlik military base located in Turkey. In anonymous statements, the Americans do not forget to include the topic of İncirlik "between the lines." But it is not going to be as the U.S. expects. In this operation, İncirlik will be closed to military flights. It has been said that this situation might change if the U.S. draws closer to Turkey's stance on Syrian. We have said innumerable times, but I would still like to underline again: along with fighting against ISIS, Ankara also wishes a move against the Assad regime as it considers Assad the main source of instability in the region. Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu made an interesting remark characterizing Ankara's approach: "If it is said, ‘Let's only partially penalize ISIS,' in a cosmetic sense, it is not worth undertaking the task," adding that fighting the Assad regime should also be included in the strategy. Çavuşoğlu's remarks should be noted.