Turkey Boosts Troops in Northern Iraq
Turkey is pushing ahead with military plans to support allies in northern Iraq despite protests from Baghdad. In a move analysts say risks deepening divisions in a country on the verge of breakup since the war with Islamic State militants erupted last year.
Turkey will deploy more troops to the semi-autonomous region under Kurdish control to train forces fighting the Islamic State group, Hurriyet said, citing “reliable sources” it didn’t identify. Turkey increased its presence at Bashiqa camp northeast of Mosul to around 600 from about 90, and also sent a tank battalion to the area over the past week. Future deployments will bring the total number of troops to more than 2,000, the third-largest overseas force in Iraq after the U.S. and Iran, according to Hurriyet.
Turkey, a major Sunni power in the Middle East, has enjoyed closer ties with Iraqi Kurds led by Massoud Barzani than the Shiite-led central government in Baghdad, which is backed by Iran. It provides the sole route to market for the Kurdish oil industry, and trains Kurdish fighters as part of the international coalition against Islamic State gunmen.
The deployment is taking place against the backdrop of rising tension as more foreign powers intervene in the conflicts in Iraq and Syria. Turkish warplanes shot down a Russian fighter jet that strayed into Turkish airspace during a mission over Syria on Nov. 24. Russia and NATO have deployed more warplanes and warships in the region since.