Iraq Gives Ultimatum of 48 hrs to Turkish Troops
Iraq said Sunday that Turkey had 48 hours to withdraw an influx of Turkish military deployed near the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul without the consent of the Baghdad government, and warned that it would ask the United Nations Security Council to force their removal.
"Iraq has the right to use all available options," said a statement from Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.
The forces' arrival was a violation of Iraq's sovereignty and international laws, coming without the consent of the Baghdad government, defense minister Khaled al-Obaidi said in a Sunday phone call with Turkish counterpart Ismet Yilmaz that was reported by Iraqi state media.
Mr. Yilmaz said the forces were in Iraq to backstop the small number of Turkish trainers who already had been working with Sunni Muslim tribal fighters at Zelgan camp, in Nineveh province, as it and the surrounding area were under threat by Islamic State.
But a Turkish official said Saturday that the troops were training Iraqi Kurdish fighters, known as the Peshmerga, who are fighting Islamic State on the ground in northern Iraq.
Turkey's move "does not respect good neighborly relations" between the two countries, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi had said on Saturday, calling for the troops' immediate withdrawal.
Iraq previously said it rejected any military operation on its soil that isn't coordinated with the government.
A spokesman for the Kurdish Regional Government said Saturday that the Turkish personnel were at Bashiqa camp on the northern outskirts of Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, to train Peshmerga forces.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu sent a letter to Mr. Abadi on Sunday, Turkey's Anadolu news agency reported, outlining the details of Turkey's training program in Mosul since March 2014,
"Until the sensitivities of the Iraqi government have been met, there would be no transition of forces in Bashiqa," Mr. Davutoglu wrote. He stressed Turkey is among countries that are the "most sensitive" to the unity of Iraq and wouldn't take any steps to undermine Iraqi sovereignty.
Anadolu reported on Friday that about 150 soldiers and 20 to 25 tanks arrived in the region, stationed at military camps both near Mosul and close to the Iranian border.
More than 2,500 Peshmerga including officers have attended Turkish sessions thus far, including weapons and artillery training, the Turkish military said in the report.
"Turkey has been training the Peshmerga fighters as part of the anti-ISIL campaign for some time," one Turkish official said on Saturday, using an acronym for Islamic State. "This is nothing new."
The growing furor over the Turkish troops is an outgrowth of the long-standing feud between the Shiite Muslim-dominated government in Baghdad and the Kurdish-led government in Erbil.
Turkey has close military and economic ties with Kurdistan and its president, Masoud Barzani. While the new Turkish force may have the support from Kurdistan, the move has the potential to create more division between Baghdad and Erbil.
Turkish military forces have been present in northern Iraq for years, but "the size and composition of the new force, reports that Barzani has granted the Turks a permanent base outside of Mosul, and the expected deployment of U.S. Special Operations forces to Iraq have made Iraqi politicians extremely sensitive to the arrival of any foreign forces," said Patrick Martin, an analyst at the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War, in a research note Sunday.
U.S. military officials said several hundred Turkish troops had moved into Iraq and appeared to be there for a training mission.
The officials said that the Turkish force wasn't related to the broader U.S.-led campaign against Islamic State.
"The U.S. does not support military deployments inside Iraq absent the consent of the Iraqi government," Brett McGurk, Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, or Islamic State, said in a tweet Sunday. "This includes deployment of U.S. military personnel, as well as military personnel from any other country."
He called the phone call a constructive step forward.
Bashiqa is also a hub for Sunni Muslim volunteers, including many from Mosul, who are being trained by the Iraqi army to take part in any future offensive to liberate it from the Sunni extremist group.
Mosul, home to more than one million people, is the largest city under the extremist group's control.
Islamic State's recapture of the western city of Ramadi in May, widely seen as a test of the Iraqi army's preparedness for a planned future offensive to route the group from Mosul, cast serious doubts on the imminence of such a battle.
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