US takes Turkish concerns into account on Mosul assault: Minister
AA PhotoThe United States is taking Turkish concerns into account over the role of Shiite militias in the upcoming Mosul operation to clear Iraq’s second-largest town of jihadists, Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Işık has said as preparatory military mobilization continued over the weekend.
“If you try to clear Mosul [from jihadists] with Shiite militias, you may start new chaos and a mess that would last 100 years. We are talking about these with the U.S. What we observe so far is that what we have been saying is being taken into account,” Işık told reporters on Oct. 16.
The international coalition should be careful to not create new tension in the region while fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Işık said, in reference to a potential conflict between Shiite militias and the Sunni majority of Mosul.
“Let us give support to you for an operation to be conducted with local groups of this region. If you are to clear Raqqa, don’t do it with the PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party] or PYD [Democratic Union Party] because they could cause bigger problems after DAESH [the Arabic acronym of ISIL] goes from the city,” he said.
The Mosul operation should be carried out with the participation of local groups around the city, the minister added.
Ankara has three main concerns with regard to the upcoming Mosul operation. The first is a potential sectarian rift between Sunni and Shiites in the event that the latter’s militia groups enter Mosul. Second, Turkey is concerned that the fighting in the region may spark a new refugee influx; last, the country is worried that the vacuum in the region after the operation could help other terror groups to grow.
Baghdad is strongly against Ankara’s participation in the upcoming operation due to the Bashiqa crisis amid fresh diplomatic efforts to end the crisis between the two countries, according to broadcaster CNN Türk.
US begins shelling ISIL
With all eyes on the upcoming Mosul attack, the U.S. military deployed to the east of Mosul started shelling ISIL targets late on Oct. 15 while French and American warplanes hit areas where ISIL militants were positioned. Peshmerga Commander Omar Huseyin told Anadolu Agency that American howitzers deployed some 20 kilometers away from Mosul city center were hitting ISIL targets.
“The Daesh terrorists started burning tires to block the view of the warplanes after international coalition forces struck the area,” he added. “Daesh terrorists also started burning the petroleum filled in their ditches, which they have dug around the city.”
Brett McGurk, the U.S. administration’s special coordinator for the anti-ISIL fight, said the Mosul operation would be announced by al-Abadi when it begins.
The attacks late on Oct. 15 were steps to increase the military build-up and narrow the circle ahead of a ground offensive, private broadcaster NTV channel said, quoting security sources.
In mid-2014, ISIL captured Mosul and overran vast swathes of territory in northern and western Iraq. It remains in control of several parts of the country, including Mosul.
The Iraqi army and its allies are now gradually advancing on Mosul, which officials in Baghdad have vowed to “liberate” by year’s end.