Turkey is ready to launch a ground operation in Iraq if it feels threatened by developments there, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Oct. 25, at a time when a U.S.-backed offensive to drive the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) from the city of Mosul is on the agenda.
“If there is a threat posed to Turkey, we are ready to use all our resources including a ground operation... to eliminate that threat,” he said in an interview with the Kanal 24 TV station.
Turkey will not tolerate the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party
(PKK), which has waged a three-decade insurgency against the Turkish state for greater “Kurdish autonomy,” using parts of northern Iraq as bases, Çavuşoğlu said. The PKK
wanted to make Sinjar a “second Kandil,” but such actions would not be allowed and Turkey will “intervene more actively” to stop it from happening, he added.
He said Iraq’s central government in Baghdad is “tying itself to a terrorist organization,” adding that Turkey would take whatever steps necessary to protect its soldiers stationed at the Bashiqa military camp, near the northern city of Mosul.
Çavuşoğlu claimed that last year in some meetings, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi had said that “the PKK
might be used in the operations” against the ISIL. “Iraq has become a country that is not being governed anymore,” he said. “If the threat to us increases [there], we can deal with them using our rights under international law and our strength including a ground operation,” Çavuşoğlu said.
“We aren’t saying this to Iraqis alone, but to the United States and all coalition nations, to the northern Iraqi government,” he said. He referred to Turkey’s offensive in Syria as an example of how Turkey took the threat to its security seriously.
On Syria, Çavuşoğlu said Turkey will have to take its own measures against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) if its fighters do not withdraw from the town of Manbij to the east of the Euphrates River.
Recalling that U.S. officials, including President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry issued promises to Turkey for the removal of YPG from largely Arab areas, Çavuşoğlu said, “We simply want them to keep their promises. The U.S. wants to cooperate with YPG in the Raqqa operation even though the group is planning ethnic cleansing there.”
Turkey and Iraq are at odds about the presence of Turkish troops at Bashiqa, and about Ankara’s possible role in the U.S.-backed Mosul operation.
Turkey says it has a responsibility to protect ethnic Turkmens and Sunni
Arabs in the area around Mosul, once part of the Ottoman Empire.
It is concerned that both PKK
militants and Shiite militias, which the Iraqi army has relied on in the past, will be used in the campaign and stoke ethnic bloodletting.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has said Baghdad does not want Turkey’s help and that the Turkish troops, tanks and artillery deployed at the Bashiqa military camp are there without his government’s authorization. Iraq says it is a sovereign nation that can handle the Mosul operation alone.