The Price of Turkish Posturing in Iraq

As Iraqi Army forces enter Mosul proper and anti-ISIS coalition forces encircle the city, the complex and bloody operation to safely wrest a city of approximately one million people from the grip of ISIS militants will continue to dominate headlines. However, for the region’s power players, the question of what comes after Mosul’s fall may be more important than the conduct of the campaign itself.

Indeed, that question seems to have driven relations between Turkey and Iraq to the breaking point. Over the past month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi have engaged in a swiftly escalating war of words over the presence of Turkish troops at the Bashiqa airbase in northern Iraq. From Abadi’s claim that the base is an unsanctioned violation of Iraqi territory, to Erdogan’s assertion that the Iraqi Prime Minister should “know his place,” angry rhetoric has led to real world escalation. Turkish units based at Bashiqa have already participated in the operation to retake Mosul – against Iraqi wishes – and, on Tuesday, Turkish tanks and troops were seen massing at the border town of Silopi.  This led Abadi to warn that “the invasion of Iraq will lead to Turkey being dismantled.”

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