Iraq concerned with growing Turkish military presence on its soil – analyst

Turkey’s increasing reliance on military tools to pursue national security goals has put Ankara at odds with Iraq, Turkish journalist Sinem Cengiz said in an article she penned for Arab News on Friday.

Since 2016, Turkey’s foreign policy has significantly altered from being soft to hard power-driven, according to Cengiz, as seen on several fronts with Turkish troops being deployed in at least nine countries from Syria to Iraq, Libya to Azerbaijan and Qatar to Somalia.

“In the domestic realm, this policy strengthens the government's hand in maintaining public support,” according to Cengiz, who added that Ankara is aiming to recalibrate its position in the regional order.

Baghdad on Tuesday summoned the Turkish envoy to protest the visit of Defence Minister Hulusi Akar to a military base in northern Iraq, as Turkish troops continue their cross-border offensive in Metina in the northern Iraqi region of Dohuk against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which Turkey designates a terrorist organization.

Ankara says that its cross-border operations and bases are not a violation of Iraqi sovereignty but an effort to eliminate the PKK, and it will continue to carry out its operations.

On April 30, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced that Turkey would be establishing a new base in Metina, similar to one in northern Syria to monitor the PKK's movements between its strategic hiding places in the Qandil Mountains.

“Metina is an important region. Just as we did in Syria, we will build a base here and monitor the region. This area is a route to Qandil; we will control this route”, Soylu said.

Amid the Turkish operations against the PKK that have caused problems with Iraq, a US delegation headed by Middle East coordinator Brett McGurk met with top Iraqi officials on Tuesday, before visiting northern Iraq on Wednesday, Cengiz noted.

“Turkey considers McGurk to be the architect of America’s cooperation with the Syrian wing of the PKK, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), and accuses him of empowering Kurdish terrorism” the analyst wrote, adding that “while Turkey flexes its muscles against the PKK in the northern regions of Syria and Iraq, McGurk’s visit may encourage the Kurdish militias.”

“Turkey’s embrace of military tools in its foreign policy agenda is likely to run into local and foreign actors whose aims are to consolidate their power in the region at the expense of a Turkish military presence,” according to the analyst.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1855341