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Thursday, October 13, 2016

Erdogan's Snarling Neighbourly Camaraderie

"We're certainly well aware that this is going to be a difficult challenge, a difficult operation."
"[ISIL, however, is] demoralized [and] having a harder time exercising command and control over their own forces."
"[The Mosul offensive dispute is a] matter that the government of Iraq and the government of Turkey need to work out. We would just encourage all parties to focus on the common enemy at hand, which is ISIL."
U.S. Defence Department spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis

"You [Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi] are not my interlocutor, you are not at my level, you are not my equivalent, you are not of the same quality as me."
"The Iraqi prime minister - know your place!" 
"You are not at my level… the army of the Turkish republic has not lost such standing as to receive instructions from you. You should know that we will do what we want to do."
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
In this picture, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech at the Presidential Complex in Ankara on 29 September, 2016.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Iraq's prime minister: "You are not at my level" AFP

"We are not your enemy and we will liberate our land through the determination of our men."
"[You, by your hostile and unhelpful attitude and actions may be responsible for setting the stage for a] regional war, [interfering in the Iraqi-U.S.-led offensive on Mosul, on Iraqi territory]."
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi
In this 9 January, 2016 photo, Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi speaks during a ceremony for Police Day in Baghdad, Iraq.
Iraq's Haider Al-Abadi hit back at Mr Erdogan on Twitter  AP

The U.S.-supported coalition offensive to retake Mosul is anticipating that there will be a huge cost in wrenching the city of a million residents back into government hands, held hostage for far too long by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham. ISIL fighters have busied themselves digging trenches, rigging roads with IEDs, setting up explosives in the city's buildings in anticipation of the coalition offensive to dislodge the Islamists from their Mosul stronghold in northern Iraq.

Ejecting the Islamic State fighters from Mosul would have enormous repercussions, taking back strategic geographic and infrastructure gains from the caliphate, steadily shrinking the territory it had triumphantly declared was the mainstay of their spreading caliphate. Symbolically, ejecting ISIL would have great traction, since Mosul was the initial Iraqi city of major significance that ISIL had taken when its reputation preceded it, leading to the Iraqi military fleeing their onslaught, leaving the population defenceless.

Islamic State has been hard pressed to hold on to the territory it had taken so handily when it first burst on the scene in Iraq and Syria two years ago, its fierce attacks taking the Iraqi military by surprise, while its reputation for committing mass atrocities struck fear into the military which fled en masse before the opportunity to meet in combat ever took place. In the process of decamping the entire American-provided weaponry and military vehicles depots were abandoned, to the benefit of ISIL.

Turkey's intervention in Iraq has not been welcomed, with the two countries' long-standing disagreement over territorial imperatives, each questioning the others' claims to overlapping territorial legitimacy. Iraq would prefer Turkey to remain within its own borders. But Turkey, like Russia, speaks of its obligation to protect Iraqi Turkmen, just as Moscow speaks of the need to support Russian-speaking Ukrainians rebelling against Ukrainian central authority.
"Ankara is trying to create a Sunni power centre in northern Iraq - a sort of 'Sunnistan' - through the KRG and Sunni tribes, fighting for local dominance with sub-national armed actors. But it's playing in a room full of glass and with two elephants: the US and Russia. Turkey must work with the U.S. as a NATO member. But on a political and diplomatic level, it's trying to align with Russia - and that creates a dangerous split." 
"The U.S. does not want a separate fight to distract it from the battle against ISIL. The U.S. line is: 'if Turkey wants to fight against ISIL in Iraq, it needs to come under our roof'. It's trying to prevent Turkey from playing a new game."
Metin Gurcan, military analyst, columnist, Al-Monitor. 

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