Turkey conveys reservations over Mosul operation to US

Published 06.10.2016 00:00
Updated 06.10.2016 00:23

Turkey has expressed five reservations over the upcoming Mosul operation to the U.S. during a meeting in Ankara, including opposition to any moves to hand over Iraq's Tal Afar district to a Shiite militant group, a Turkish diplomatic source said Wednesday. The reservations were expressed when Antony Blinken, U.S. deputy secretary of state, and Brett McGurk, the U.S. State Department's special presidential envoy for the global coalition to counter Daish, met Turkish diplomatic authorities Tuesday to discuss the Mosul operation.

Tal Afar for Turkmen

According to the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to restrictions on talking to the media, while U.S. authorities assured Turkey that Hashd al-Shaabi - an umbrella group for Shiite militants - would not enter the city center of Mosul, the Tal Afar district would be handed over to the militant group. Turkey made it clear it supports the homecoming of all Sunni and Shiite Turkmen people to Tal Afar after the operation but it does not want the Shiite militant group to settle in the district.

According to Turkey's point of view, the sectarian conflict in the war-torn country, which began soon after the U.S. occupation of Iraq in 2003, would move into Tal Afar with some groups, including Hashd al-Shaabi. Also, Turkey warned U.S. authorities that the Shiite militant group could trigger the same sectarian conflict in Tal Afar as the country witnessed after the 2003 occupation. Moreover, Turkish authorities said the Turkmens would be harmed the most by the presence of Shiite militants in their district.

Life support for Assad regime

Turkey also warned the U.S. that the Iraqi Shiite militia group could try to form a new land connection between Iraq, Iran and Syria via Tal Afar after a similar route was lost when Daish captured Mosul.

Also, the Peshmerga forces loyal to Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) leader Massoud Barzani control the border at Sinjar. The Shiite militia group would then use the PKK's support at the Sinjar border to reach Syria, which would eventually make military and other logistical transfers from Iraq and Iran to the Bashar Assad regime easier. Daish still controls half of Sinjar, while the PKK controls the city center and places along the Syrian border. According to Turkish intelligence reports, the terrorist PKK group currently has roughly 1,000 militia members in the region, mainly consisting of Yazidi citizens.

PKK's permanent stay in Sinjar

PKK militants entered Syria by claiming it would fight against Daish but instead it chose to settle in the Sinjar district after the clashes.

The Kurdish Regional Government, on the other hand, wants the PKK terrorist group to retreat from the region. If the Shiite militants get Tal Afar, it would mean the regional government would lose power to the PKK. Also, it would ensure the PKK's permanent presence in Sinjar. Ankara told the U.S. that any situation that would enable the PKK to have a permanent presence in Sinjar would be "unacceptable," according to the source.

Need for simultaneous operations

Turkey highlighted the importance of launching simultaneous operations against Daish in the Syrian city of Raqqa and the Iraqi city of Mosul, which could deal a big blow to the terrorist group, the source said.

If the U.S. only gives importance to an operation in Mosul, then Daish militants may flee to the stronghold in Raqqa, the source said. Ankara also warned the U.S. government that the Mosul operation "should not harm" Turkey's recently launched Operation Euphrates Shield.‘Mosul for the people of Mosul'

According to Turkey, it has provided training to local fighters of Mosul in the Bashiqa region since early 2015 at the request of Iraq's regional government. These fighters, who all hail from Mosul, now want to return to their lands, according to the source. However, the government in Iraq, which is now said to be under the influence of Shiite militants, does not want any role to be given to these trained fighters because they are Sunnis, the source added. Turkish officials also reminded their U.S. counterparts of the fact that it was the Iraqi army which abandoned Mosul when it faced Daish. They also warned their U.S. counterparts that terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda may gain support following the expected fanaticism of Shiite militants in the region.

In the end, Turkey told U.S. officials: "Mosul belongs to the people who are from Mosul," adding that the country is ready to support artillery units in Bashiqa, according to the source.

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