With audacity, the Islamist President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan did not hesitate to publicly threaten that he will violate Iraq’s sovereignty and independence. What encourages such threats is the silence of his fellow Islamic leaders in Iraq.
Turkey threatens Iraq
Two days ago, Erdogan said in Istanbul while addressing the Iraqi government: “If you are able to handle them (referring to the elements of the PKK, who are present in Sinjar since its liberation from ISIS in late 2015), do so or else we will come to Sinjar and deal with them ... We do not ask the permission of anyone.” He added: “We have said before that we may come by surprise, and here we are.”
In the sphere of international relations, offensive remarks (such as Erdogan’s aforementioned direct threat to Iraq) are generally delivered by government spokespersons or low ranking security or military personnel.
As a matter of fact, the threat issued by the Turkish president is not even relevant, as Turkey has its forces deployed in the Kurdistan region of Iraq since Saddam’s times. In recent years, Turkey has moved additional troops and established new bases there. Two days ago, the Turkish newspaper Ahval revealed that Turkish troops violated Iraqi territory in the Kurdistan region, where it is establishing roads and advanced permanent bases.
Iraq’s weak response
Erdogan is dealing with the sovereignty of the Iraqi state as if someone in Baghdad had given him a carte blanche. The Iraqi government is merely responding with statements that it does not accept the violation of Iraqi sovereignty and that it has been talking with the Turkish government regarding this matter, but it has not applied any pressure. The Iraqi government has the aptitude to employ political and economic pressure to coerce Erdogan into disciplining himself.
Strangely, some Islamist forces in Iraq have occupied themselves and their supporters with an unfounded case over the alleged visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Iraq. These forces have concocted false stories about the visit and organized paid demonstrations only to be exposed that their case had no basis at all. There were no Iraqi invitations sent to the Saudi prince and Baghdad didn’t receive an invitation from the Kingdom either, as announced by Prime Minister Haidar Abadi after the last meeting of the Council of Ministers last Sunday.
It is understandable that Erdogan gets a free rein in pushing his boundaries in this matter since he can see the Iraqi government’s silence towards his impudence and how powerful forces in Baghdad keep creating fictitious Iraqi foes while letting real enemies do what they want with Iraqi national sovereignty such as violate it or derogate it.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Adnan Hussein is the executive editor-in-chief of Al-Mada newspaper and head of the National Union of Iraqi journalists. Previously, he has held the position of Managing Editor in Asharq al-Awsat newspaper. He tweets under the handle @adnanhussein