Turkey snubs Iraq’s call for troop pullout

Turkey snubs Iraq’s call for troop pullout

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkey snubs Iraq’s call for troop pullout

Turkey nearly has 1,000 soldiers based in northern Iraq in its fight on the PKK. DHA Photo

Turkey has ignored a recent Iraqi move not to extend treaties signed in the past allowing the presence of foreign forces or military bases on Iraqi territory, but Turkey has maintained several military bases in northern Iraq since the 1990s.

A verbal agreement was formed between Turkey and the Iraqi Kurds in 1995-1996, when massive joint military operations were launched by the Turkish army and Iraqi Kurdish groups against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), to allow Turkish forces to establish a presence in northern Iraq. On Oct. 2, the Iraqi Cabinet condemned the Turkish government’s motion to extend cross-border operations against militants in northern Iraq. Iraq’s Cabinet suggested that Parliament should abrogate treaties permitting foreign forces in the country, after the Turkish government submitted a motion to extend cross-border operations against the PKK.

Turkish Parliament’s General Assembly will discuss the motion today, as the current mandate expires Oct. 17. No treaty has ever been signed between Turkey and Iraq that would allow Turkey to launch military operations on Iraqi territory, even in the era of the Saddam regime.

Over 3,000 Turkish soldiers
No official notice has been given to Ankara regarding the Iraqi Cabinet’s initiative yet. As in the past, Turkish officials have remained mum on the number of troops stationed in military bases in northern Iraq.

In 2009, a Sulaimaniyah-based magazine revealed that 3,235 Turks were stationed in 13 military bases in northern Iraq. When Leven magazine published its report, Turkish officials neither confirmed nor denied it. Turkey has some 1,000 troops based in northern Iraq, according to Reuters.

Iraq rejects the presence of any foreign bases or troops on Iraqi territory, and the incursion of any foreign military forces into Iraqi lands on the pretext of hunting down rebels, Iraqi government spokesman Ali Dabbagh said in a statement on Oct. 2.

Complaining of a violation of Iraqi sovereignty and security, Dabbagh said the motion contradicted the “principle of good neighborly relations.”

A high-ranking Iraqi official said the decision was aimed at Turkish military bases in the northern Iraqi province of Dohuk, one of the three provinces that make up the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

Ties with Iraq worsened
Bilateral ties between the Turkish government and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki have been marred by a flurry of disputes, including Ankara’s refusal to extradite Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, who has been sentenced to death in absentia by an Iraqi court on charges of running death squads, which he denies.

The Turkish government enjoys closer ties with the president of the KRG, Massoud Barzani, who was applauded at the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) convention on Sept. 30.