Turkey is now in deep waters: on the one hand, it is forced to fight resistant Kurds both at home and in Northern Iraq, on the other hand, it is facing growing problems with Russia, Iraq and Iran. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s excuse that it was the Iraqi government who asked him to send troops to Northern Iraq is simply ridiculous. Now that the 48 hours the Turks were given for leaving Iraq have expired and now that the UN Security Council is going to discuss this occupation, this looks like they are just trying to make the best of a bad bargain. Of course, the Iraqis will hardly dare to attack the Turks even on their own territory, but here we have other factors too. A few days ago, the leader of France’s National Front Marine Le Pen and President of the Czech Republic Milos Zeman said that Turkey would in no way be admitted into the EU. And some politicians even think that Turkey no longer fits NATO.
But the Turks persist in bombing PKK camps and bases in Northern Iraq. Their excuse is that the Kurdistan Regional Government is not giving the Iraqis any rights. It is a long cherished dream for the Turks to enter Mosul, but the whole world knows that Mosul is occupied by ISIL. So, perhaps, they in Ankara have decided to stop pretending to have nothing to do with ISIL (terror organization banned in Russia - EADaily). As a NATO member and an ally of the United States, the Turks would have hardly dared to do such a thing on their own. So, it turns out that having seen that they have no more chances in Syria, the Turks and their western patrons have decided to catalyze destructive processes in Iraq. One more possibility is that the Turks are acting on their own, but in this case they will face counteractions – for the Middle East is not Northern Cyprus. The UN Security Council’s reaction to Iraqi legitimate prime minister Haider al-Abadi’s calls for Turkey’s withdrawal from Northern Iraq will show which of these two possibilities is a reality.
But the real problem here is that Erdogan and his Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu have launched a hate campaign against Russia and Iran. They have accused the Russians of perpetrating “ethnic cleansings” in Syria. They probably mean the Grey Wolves, a Syria-based Turkic band, who was forced to flee following the Russians’ requital strikes. Among them there might be Turkoman civilians, who might be afraid of the Syrians’ revenge. But this can in no way be called “ethnic cleansing.” Ethnic cleansing was the things the Turks did against Kurds in Syria and Iraq. The Kurds say that in 2014, jointly with ISIL bandits, the Turks committed a real genocide against them. Spokesperson of Russia’s Foreign Ministry Maria Zakharova has called Turkey’s charges groundless and unworthy. “This is more like impotent rage,” she said.
In fact, Davutoglu’s statements have exposed the real plans of the Turks and the Sunni Jihadists. He said that Russia’s activities in the north of Latakia (this territory borders on Turkey and has been repeatedly attacked by ISIL fighters) are aimed to ensure the safety of Bashar al-Assad’s regime and its bases in Latakia and Tartus by forcing the Syrian Turkomans and the anti-Assad Sunnis to leave that territory. So, it turns out that one of the Turks’ goals in Latakia is to annihilate the local Alawites and to destroy the local Russian bases. So, Zakharova is right: Russia and its allies have actually ruined Turkey’s plans in Syria. This is Erdogan is now rushing towards Mosul.
As far as Iran is concerned, Erdogan has warned his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani that he will pay a high price if he continues charging him and his family with being involved in black market oil trading with ISIL. This is how Erdogan reacted to Hassan Rouhani’s reports that he has proofs that Turkey helps Jihadists to trade in oil, cotton and artifacts. Erdogan’s countercharge was that the Iranian and Iraqi Shias are persecuting Sunnis in Iraq and Syria. “In the north of Iraq people have no rights. Lots of Sunni Arabs, Turkomans and Kurds living there have lost their rights and need guarantees of safety,” he said.
This is nothing but hypocrisy. The only pro-Turkish force in Northern Iraq is the clan of Barzani. For the rest – be it the Sunni Kurdish clan of at-Talabani or the Sunni Arabs – Turkish occupation is the last thing they might dream of. As far as the Sunni Turkomans are concerned, there are few of them in Mosul. Their home is Kirkuk. So, it turns out that Kirkuk with its oil and gas fields is also a target for Erdogan.
Iran has never endured Turkey’s impudence and this time too its response was harsh. While commenting on Erdogan’s warning, Iranian politician Mohammad Bagher Nobakht said: “Erdogan must know that even great powers are unable to warn or threaten Iran.” In his turn, Commander of the Iranian Army Ground Forces Ahmad Reza Purdastan said that the Iranians are strengthening their military relations with Russia. “We are considering buying Russian T-90 tanks,” he said.
According to Tasnim News Agency, Russia will shortly consider Iran’s request. On Nov 23, when the Turks were shooting down the Russian Su-24, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Supreme Leader of Iran Sayyed Ali Hosseini Khamenei agreed on Iran’s involvement in the ground activities in Syria. And on their way to Syria the Iranians will inevitably pass though Iraq. And Russian T-90s will be quite useful here. So, are the Turks ready to face Iranians driving Russian tanks in Iraq?
The Russians’ response to the Turks’ sorties was their decision to dispatch military cargoes to the Iraq-based Kurdish Peshmerga. According to Rudaw agency, Russia’s Consul General in Arbil Viktor Simakov made that known to Interior Minister of Iraqi Kurdistan Karim Sinjari earlier this week. So, the Shia government of Iraq was aware of the Russians’ plans. This is the first time the Russians armed Iraqi Kurds directly.
It is clear that today the Turks are worried not so much that Putin will keep his promise to punish them for their attack on the Russian Su-24 but that the Russians and the Iranians may liberate Mosul and Raqqah. Their continuing provocations may lead to very unpredictable consequences if their western partners fail to stop them. In any case, Turkey’s aggression may show who is who in this game – for there are no guarantees that pro-Turkish and pro-Western Barzani will not be the first to betray Erdogan as both Iran and Russia have lots of levers to make him change his attitude. And it seems that very soon all the players in this game will publicly acknowledge that the current Turkish authorities and the ISIL terrorists are the same thing and will stop their talks with the Turks – for what talks one can have with terrorists?
Sergey Shakaryants, political analyst (Yerevan), specially for EADaily