Ankara's Influence: Asset or a Liability?

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The Mosul operation, launched on October 17, has once again highlighted the complicated nature of Turkey’s involvement in the fight against the Islamic State (IS). Ahead of the offensive, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made repeated appeals for Turkish troops to partake in the operation, warning against the liberation of the majority Sunni city by Shiite forces and raising concerns about Baghdad’s sectarian policies. As tensions between Ankara and Baghdad continue to rise, compounded by the escalation of the Turkish-Kurdish conflict, the success of anti-IS operations in Iraq and Syria depends increasingly on the United States’ ability to manage its makeshift alliances.

Turkey has a significant footprint in and around Iraq. The Bashiqa base, in close proximity to Mosul, hosts Turkish troops, tanks, and howitzers, and provides training to the Kurdish Peshmerga and al-Hashd al-Watani, which mainly consists of Sunni Arabs loyal to the former Nineveh governor, Atheel al-Nujaifi. Despite Baghdad’s opposition to the presence of Turkish troops in Iraq, Ankara has announced that it will not leave Bashiqa, and there have been rumors of additional Turkish troop deployments to the base.

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