Turkey has issues on two fronts: Iraq and Syria
Ankara wants to be included in fight for Mosul, Iraq says no
For months, the US has been building up an alliance in the Middle East aimed at dislodging ISIS from its strongholds in both Iraq and Syria.
But these efforts have been complicated in recent weeks by one of Washington’s oldest allies in the region: Turkey.
The Turkish government is lashing out against factions currently battling ISIS. Ankara has been engaged in a very public war of words with the government in Iraq. At the same time, the Turkish military has been bombing US-backed Kurdish militants in Syria.
Part of this policy stems from Turkey’s unenviable position, living alongside two of the bloodiest, most destabilizing conflicts the Middle East has seen in a generation.
Days before the start of the week-old Iraqi offensive to drive ISIS out of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, Turkey’s President issued an unusual public demand to join the military operation.
“We have to take part in the Mosul operation,” said Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The Turkish announcement drew angry rebukes from the Iraqi central government, and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi openly accused Turkey of violating Iraqi sovereignty.
“The Mosul battle is an Iraqi battle and the ones who are conducting it are Iraqis,” Abadi later added.
Why Mosul matters
Turkish officials have used several arguments to justify their inclusion in the Mosul offensive.
One revolves around the fear of further sectarian conflict between Mosul’s predominantly Sunni population and the Shi’ite-dominated military forces of the Iraqi government.
“If we accept Mosul’s current destiny, there will be a Sunni-Shia struggle,” Erdogan said in a speech October 18.
But behind the scenes, analysts say there is ongoing rivalry for influence in