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First Step to Annexation? The Real Reason Turkey Sent Troops to Iraq

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Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is trying to take advantage of the power vacuum in northern Iraq to create a proto-state loyal to Ankara, if not annex this territory, defense analyst Stanislav Ivanov wrote for New Eastern Outlook.

In early December, Ankara sent approximately 130 Turkish troops to a town close to Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq, which was captured by Daesh in June 2014. The initiative was not authorized by Baghdad, which called it a violation of sovereignty. Iraqi authorities urged Ankara to withdraw soldiers and military hardware from the province of Nineveh and refrain from similar actions in the future.

"President Erdogan and his entourage believe that Nineveh province was illegally annexed from Turkey in 1920. … Taking advantage of the attenuation of the central Iraqi authority and de facto division of the country into three parts (Shiite south, Sunni center and Kurdish north), Mr. Erdogan cherishes the idea of restoring 'historical justice,'" the analyst explained.

© AFP 2021 / MEHDI FEDOUACHA large convoy of Turkish military including tanks and ambulances rolls from the southeastern part of Turkey toward the Iraqi border (File)
A large convoy of Turkish military including tanks and ambulances rolls  from the southeastern part of Turkey toward the Iraqi border (File) - Sputnik International
A large convoy of Turkish military including tanks and ambulances rolls from the southeastern part of Turkey toward the Iraqi border (File)

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Ankara claimed that the troops, tanks and armored personnel carriers were deployed to northern Iraq to train Peshmerga and the operation was given a green light by the leadership of Iraqi Kurdistan. Ivanov called these claims "unconvincing," since the province is not part of Iraqi Kurdistan, "but is directly subordinate to Baghdad."

In addition, northern Iraq is rich in oil and Ankara has access to transport routes used to deliver petroleum from Iraqi Kurdistan to Turkey.

These factors "explain Ankara's desire to take advantage of the power vacuum in the north of Iraq and take control over these territories after the liberation of Mosul and Nineveh," Ivanov stated. "And it will not necessarily look like a direct occupation of Nineveh and its subsequent annexation from Iraq."

© AFP 2021 / MUSTAFA OZER Turkish soldiers patrol on a road near the Turkey-Iraq border in the mainly Kurdish southeastern province of Sirnak (File)
Turkish soldiers patrol on a road near the Turkey-Iraq border in the mainly Kurdish southeastern province of Sirnak (File) - Sputnik International
Turkish soldiers patrol on a road near the Turkey-Iraq border in the mainly Kurdish southeastern province of Sirnak (File)

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The analyst maintains that Ankara could well encourage local Sunnis, Syrian Turkmen and friendly Kurds to call for a referendum, which would produce a political entity resembling Iraqi Kurdistan. "There are no doubts that the new regional authorities are expected to be loyal to Ankara and that Turkey will become a sort of a 'shadow master' of the northern part of Iraq," Ivanov observed.

Washington does not seem to mind Turkey's recent military adventures.

"The US administration is very much pleased that Turkey and Kurds have close ties," the analyst noted. "The reason the US supports this partnership is because as long as Turkey and Kurds have an affinity, the influence of Iran and of the pro-Iranian lobby in Baghdad will be kept at bay."

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