Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who will soon receive the absolute powers he has always wanted, ordered his army to intervene in a second Arab country over the weekend.
Euphrates Shield was officially labeled as an anti-ISIS operation, but soon after Turkey invaded Syria it became clear that the real goal was to prevent the Syrian Kurds from establishing a contiguous autonomous area along the Turkish border.
Commenting on the new intervention, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters that Turkish artillery had killed 17 ISIS terrorists near Mosul as part of the operation that aims to drive ISIS out of Iraq.
Cavusoglu claimed that the Kurdish Peshmerga militia had asked for the Turkish “assistance,” a claim that was quickly denied by the Iraqi Kurds.
The Turkish foreign minister also made clear that Turkey’s air force will also take part in the battle for Mosul and later said the Turkish army was active at multiple fronts in northern Iraq.
Turkey’s insistence to take part in the battle for Mosul led to a serious crisis with the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government at the beginning of October.
As Western Journalism reported Oct. 11, both Erdogan and Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim have made clear that they view the battle for the liberation of Mosul as a regional matter, not just an Iraqi affair, as Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi stated Saturday when declining Turkish help.
“Mosul belongs to the people of Mosul. Do not let outsiders in and ruin the original demographic fabric of the city, which might lead to a new civil war. We are following the situation attentively,” Yildirim said at the time, while Erdogan insisted that the Turks would take part in the operation no matter what.
Both Erdogan and Yildirim, who are heading one of the largest Sunni countries in the Middle East, fear that the Shiite-dominated Iraqi army and its Iranian-backed allies of the Hashd al-Shaabi militia will not protect the Sunni population in Mosul after they chase ISIS out of the city.
Hashd al-Shaabi commanders have already made clear that they are ready to confront the Turkish army whenever it violates Iraq’s sovereignty, and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned on Monday that Turkey’s intervention in Iraq was “very dangerous.”
“We regard as very dangerous [acts of] intervention by foreign countries without any coordination with the host country and believe that [for any foreign measure,] the Syrian and Iraqi governments must request help and demand that another country act against terrorism inside their territories,” Rouhani told reporters. He didn’t mention Turkey but it was clear his message was directed at Ankara.
The Iranians too are actively involved in the operation to “liberate” Mosul.
The commander of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, Qasem Soleimani, is reportedly overseeing the Iraqi military operation north and east of the city, as Western Journalism reportedlast week.
An Iraqi source who wishes to remain anonymous told Western Journalism on Monday that Iranian operatives were entering liberated villages in the Mosul area and telling residents that their army and air force were responsible for the victory over ISIS.
The Turkish intervention in Iraq is the latest evidence that Erdogan has not given up his dream of reviving the Ottoman Empire, which disintegrated as a result of the Turkish collaboration with Germany during World War I.
Over the past few weeks Erdogan twice criticized the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne that defined the borders of modern Turkey.
His criticism about the treaty leaving Turkey “too small” raised eyebrows in Greece and Bulgaria, which share borders with Turkey, and drew criticism from Turkey’s opposition.
The statements of the Turkish autocratic leader coincided with the publication of new maps of Turkey on national TV.
These maps showed Turkey as just a little bigger and including the northern Iraqi cities Mosul, Arbil and Kirkuk, the home of a huge oil industry.
The maps also included large parts of northern Syria including Aleppo (Halab), which lies south of the area that has already been occupied by Turkey since the intervention in August.
On Sunday and Monday, both Erdogan and Cavusoglu made clear that the Kurds will pay a price for their “greater Turkey” aspirations.
Erdogan told academics in Ankara that Turkey will clear a nearly 2,000-square-mile area along the Turkish border of “terrorists” — meaning Kurdish fighters of the YPG militia that dominates the Syrian Democratic Forces.
Cavusoglu said Monday that Turkey will use the “Mosul intervention” to become “even more active” against Kurdistan Workers’ Party bases in northern Iraq.
He said Turkey would never allow the Sinjar region — once home to the Yezidi minority that became the victim of genocide committed by ISIS — to become a “second Qandil,” referring to the headquarters of the PKK in Iraq.
On Tuesday he continued to threaten the government in Baghdad and said that if necessary Turkey wouldlaunch a ground operation in Iraq.
The only party involved in the Middle East turmoil that doesn’t seem to be worried about Turkey’s latest actions in Syria and Iraq is the Obama administration.
On Monday, Defense Secretary Ash Carter even pressed the Iraqi government to allow for a Turkish role in the “liberation” of Mosul.