Turkey in ring of fire, as security zone off Syria-Iraqi lines: PM

Turkey in ring of fire, as security zone off Syria-Iraqi lines: PM

Serkan Demirtaş - AMMAN/ANKARA
Turkey in ring of fire, as security zone off Syria-Iraqi lines: PM

AA photo

Turkey, as a country shaken through consecutive massive terror activities, is currently in the middle of a ring of fire, the Turkish prime minister has said, adding its security starts off its Syria-Iraqi borders and over a line passing through Syria’s Latakia, Aleppo and Iraq’s Mosul and Sulaymaniyah. 

“We are in the middle of a ring of fire. I will not announce the number of terrorist attacks we have foiled,” Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu told a group of journalists who accompanied him on his two-day trip to the Jordanian capital of Amman on March 27. 

Suicide bomb attacks carried out by outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in recent months have pushed Turkish authorities to rethink their security policies both inside and outside the country. The PKK has its headquarters and training camps in northern Iraq, while its offshoot, the Democratic Union Party (PYD,) is settled in northern Syria, while ISIL controls a good size of territory in both Iraq and Syria. 

“Turkey’s security zone starts from Latakia and through Aleppo, Mosul and Sulaymaniyah,” Davutoğlu stressed, in remarks which coincided with the Iraqi army offensive launched to liberate Mosul from ISIL. Upon a question on Turkey’s approach to this ongoing campaign for Mosul, Davutoğlu said Turkey would welcome the liberation of even the tiniest piece of land from ISIL, recalling it was the common objective of the anti-ISIL coalition. 

Aleppo and Mosul two key towns 

The fate of the Middle East is in the hands of two towns, Davutoğlu said, naming them as Syria’s Aleppo and Iraq’s Mosul. “If Aleppo would fall into the hands of either Daesh [ISIL] or the [Syrian President Bashar al-] Assad regime, then it would mean the end of hopes for Syria. Likewise if Daesh continues to control Mosul, Iraq will not be a peaceful country. But if Daesh would be replaced by extreme Shiite groups, then it would mean that civil war in Iraq will never end,” Davutoğlu said. 

Therefore, for Mosul, it’s not important when Iraq’s third largest city is liberated but rather by whom it will be freed, the Turkish prime minister stressed, adding, “Mosul should be liberated by the people of Mosul. That’s why we have established the military base in Bashiqa.” 

Three objectives of Turkish base in Iraq

Turkey established the base in Bashiqa, around 20 kilometers away from Mosul, in 2014 for the purpose of training local Iraqis and Kurdish Peshmerga forces in their fight against ISIL. Iraqi authorities have issued complaints about the base in recent months, as Turkey decided to reinforce its military presence at the base, which has become a frequent target of ISIL.  

Davutoğlu, in his assessment of the base, announced three major objectives for Turkey’s military presence in the region. “The first is to assist the Iraqi government and people in their effort to save Mosul from Daesh. The second is the fact that Turkey’s security zone begins from the line of Latakia, Aleppo, Mosul and north of Sulaymaniyah. Anything that takes place in this area is our concern. Third is the potential for the PKK to settle to the Sinjar region north of Mosul and to move into Syria through Haseke. We do not want the PKK to get settled there,” he explained. 

He also added that the liberation of Mosul would nix the PKK’s plans to control this aforementioned area and instead stabilize the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq, adding “From this perspective, we support the liberation of Mosul.”

Iraq, Syria unable to control borders 

Davutoğlu defining Turkey as being in the middle of a ring of fire is also relevant with the situation of its southern neighbor, which makes its fight against terror much more difficult compared to the past. 

“I see three main differences in our fight against terrorism now and in the past. First of all, it’s the first time that both Iraq and Syria cannot control their borders. In the past, we could divert our focus to only the Iraqi border when there was a threat,” he said. The second difference is that Turkey is now fighting not only against the PKK but also ISIL, Davutoğlu said, in addition to the outlawed Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C), which recently resumed its acts inside the country. “Now 10 different terror organizations meet in the Kandil Mountains [the PKK’s headquarters in northern Iraq] and declare war against Turkey,” he said. 

The third difficulty in the fight against terror is the fact that the government is now fighting against another organization which could leak into the security apparatus, Davutoğlu stated, in reference to the alleged “Fethullahist Terror Organization” (FETÖ). “All these terror organizations are providing logistics to each other,” he said.