UPDATE: (Turkey deployed several armored vehicles to its border with Iraq while Iraq government forces engage ISIS at Tal Afar near Mosul. Turkey has expressed disapproval over the ongoing operations at Tal Afar. According to Reuters, Turkish forces have actively targeted the Kurdish-led "Kurdistan Workers Party" (PKK) in northern Iraq, despite the Iraqi government's condemnations. Iraq has repeatedly demanded a pull-back of Turkish forces. Editor note)
Last week, it was revealed that U.S. President Obama had a phone call conversation with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The topic of the conversation was the Operation to liberate Mosul and a role that Turkey wants to play.
Let's ponder this for a second. Ever since the abortive putsch that appears to have been orchestrated by Erdoğan himself to consolidate power in July the Turks have taken on a more aggressive and ambitious policy towards the Syria conflict. They have even been cracking down against the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) in southeastern Turkey, as well as the Kurdish Peoples Protection Units (YPG), who operate within anarchic state known as Syria.
So why does Erdoğan want a role for Turkey in the liberation of Mosul? The most cynical view is that Erdoğan is doing this in his effort to reestablish the Ottoman Empire and remove the stains of Sykes-Picot and other treaties. It cannot be denied that Ankara is a rising power in the region and is looking for opportunities to assert its influence. This presents a classic opportunity for Ankara to do something along this line.
Iranian leader Hassan Rouhani and Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Another view could be that he wishes to set up a buffer zone to guard against either an independent or autonomous Kurdish state. Looking at the topography of the region this idea has some merit. This region is where the Kurdish provinces of Iraq, Syria, and Turkey come together. Turkish Policy has been to support the Iraqi Kurds, repress the Turkish Kurds and to recently launch airstrikes against the Syrians as they fight both Assad and ISIS.
So what of the Assyrians and Turkmen? It appears that once again their safety is being used as bargaining chips for outside actors. The Iraqi National Army along with Shia Militia and Peshmerga units are already in combat missions. Most of the action has the tribal forces opening a line so that government forces can exploit any opportunity. Meanwhile, the efforts by the Assyrian Nineveh Plain Units have gone by unnoticed by most media outlets for the reason of the PR machines that the Kurds and Iraqi military currently employ and their willing acolytes in the Western media.
Western troops wearing YPG patches
The question of why Erdoğan is willing to sabotage these efforts does not have either an easy or openly visible answer. This could be another form of blow-back from the failure of the putsch of July 15 by making sure that his border is protected from any external threats. Or it may be his wish to ensure there are no threats to the Islamic Order that he is imposing on the Turkish People.
A failure in the Mosul operation or a marginal success that leaves a vacuum for Sunnis or other actors to exploit will only make regional tensions worse in the long term. It appears that various actors are already jockeying for position for such a scenario. This will be seen as the ultimate failure for Washington: a wrecked Iraq, Syria destroyed by a bellicose Iran and an emboldened Turkey at the expense of the Gulf States. This is not a pretty picture.
Scott Morgan is the former President of Red Eagle Enterprises. Based in Washington, he specializes in US policy towards Africa focusing on Security, Assymetrical Operations and Business Development south of the Sahara.
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