Iraqi officials outraged for Turkish decision to establish military bases

The Security and Defence Committee of the Iraqi Parliament announced on Saturday that it will hold an extraordinary meeting in reaction to Turkey’s decision to establish a military base in northern Iraq.

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced on April 30 that Turkey will establish a military base in Metina, a mountainous area close to the Turkish border in northern Iraq.

Badr al-Ziyadi, a member of the Parliamentary Defence and Security Committee, said Turkey's advance on Iraqi soil was “a clear violation of the country's sovereignty”.

The committee will hold an extraordinary meeting on Soylu’s remarks on the proposed military base, al-Ziyadi said.

Mohammed al-Baldawi, another member of the committee, called the Iraqi prime minister's silence over Turkey's decision to build a military base in northern Iraq “suspicious and surprising”, and said it was “a provocative step and a declaration of war”.

On Saturday, Ammar Ta’meh, head of the al-Nahj al-Watani faction, said Turkey's “expansionist plans” would threaten the relationship between the two countries and “bring harm and loss to everyone”.

Ta’meh also stressed that the existence of a unified Iraqi national position to help the government in maintaining the sovereignty of the country and ending the influence of foreigners was a necessity for maintaining the security and stability of Iraq.

Speaking to members of the ruling Justice and Development Party's (AKP) executive board, Soylu said Turkey was planning to build a base in the Metina region to control the significant route to Qandil.

The minister was referring to the Qandil mountains on the Iraq-Iran border, where the main command centre of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) is based.

The Turkish army on April 24 launched a ground and air offensive against outlawed Kurdish militants’ bases in northern Iraq.

A Turkish official revealed in October 2020 Ankara’s plans to build more military bases to ensure its long-term presence in Iraq.

Turkey has reportedly already set up 10 military bases in the neighbouring country and plans to build more bases to ensure the security of its southern border. Ankara has carried out cross-border offensives of varying magnitude against the PKK for decades. However, in recent years, it's begun to establish more of a sustained presence in a growing number of bases and checkpoints dotting the mountains of Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region.

Arzu Yılmaz, a Middle East scholar and visiting fellow at Hamburg University, reckons that there are more than 5,000 Turkish troops currently deployed in northern Iraq and in Bashiqa, an area under Iraqi central government control lying east of Mosul.