Turkish army tanks take up position on the Turkish-Syrian border near the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Iraqi government on Tuesday renewed its demand for the full withdrawal of Turkish troops from its territory, asserting that Turkey must respect Iraq's sovereignty.
Although Iraq has made several such requests in the past weeks and has urged NATO to force Turkey to immediately withdraw its troops, Turkey responded that withdrawing their troops from the country is out of the question.
The latest Iraqi government statement came a day after Turkey shifted some of its troops stationed at a training camp in Bashiqah to the north close to the Turkish border in order to defuse tensions that flared up recently between Ankara and Baghdad.
Experts in Iraq say although Turkey has claimed that their troops are in Iraq as part of a training mission and to help Iraq to combat extremism, its real aim is to fight against its rival the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
"Turkey has been in Iraq for weeks now, and its main purpose is to fight against the armed Kurdistan Workers' Party. It doesn't even have an extremist group target so far. The so-called 'anti-terrorism' is a lie. It is incorrect and inaccurate. Their purpose is to weaken the Kurdistan Workers' Party," said political analyst Saad al-Muttalibi.
Al-Muttalibi pointed out that the Kurdistan Workers' Party is operating actively in northern Iraq. The party is regarded as a terrorist organization by the Turkish government as it has been seeking independence. For Turkey, deploying troops in northern Iraq is not only to strike directly the Kurdistan Workers' Party, but it also cuts its connections with Syrian Kurdish forces.
On the other side, Iraq was under the rule of Turkish Ottoman Empire. Nowadays, Iraq’s western Sunni district and Kurdish autonomous region are still feeling impact of Turkey. Turkey's military operation in these areas will significantly improve its influence and thus impact the situation Iraq.
"For us Iraqis, we think Turkey has a plan to make Iraq split into three independent areas. Although they may be united under the flag of Iraq, which means there's a government, but they will still be divided. This status of division is in line with Turkish interests," said al-Muttalibi.
Experts also say that it is very difficult for the Iraqi government to send troops to northern Iraq because it only has effective control over the central and southern Shia regions. The situation makes it tough for Iraq to compete with Turkey, as Iraq has already put most of its military forces into the fight against terrorism.
"If the Iraqi army is capable, if Iraq is politically stable, if there's no extreme organizations and terrorism, we will directly hit the Turkish army that entered our territory. But the Iraqi army is busy fighting with the extremist groups, and Turkey knows that. Iraq is unable to open another battlefield," said Dr. Khalid A Abdelsattar, an instructor at the Baghdad Political Science College.