Just when people thought the stage is set for reclaiming Mosul from Islamic State, a new factor has emerged. Turkey has aggressively put itself forward to play a role in the liberation of Mosul and that has raised several questions about the intentions of Turkey. Some political analysts have claimed that, Iraq and Turkey are currently at the verge of war within a war. The statement by Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi says it all about the broken relationship between Iraq and Turkey. He said that “We do not want war with Turkey, and we do not want a confrontation with Turkey. But if a confrontation happens, we are ready for it. We will consider [Turkey] an enemy and we will deal with it as an enemy”
However, the reality on the ground is that, Haider Al-Abadi doesn’t have enough political and military power to dictate terms. And Turkey fully understands this.
Turkey’s President Erdogan shot back saying “Turkey has no obligation to seek permission to take actions in Iraq and Syria”.
But why is Turkey interested in Mosul?
To understand Turkey’s interest in Mosul, we need to understand the history of Mosul. Since 1535, Mosul was the trade capital of Ottoman’s empire. The Mosul Vilayat was taken over by British Empire after World War I and subsequently became part of Iraq in 1932. The Turks were never happy with the arrangement of Mosul being part of British Empire or Iraq. In recent days, Erdogan has referenced the treaty that handed over Mosul to British few times, clearly indicating that, he wants to go back to the territory recognised by Ottoman’s Empire.
One of the success of Islamic State has been breaking down the century old borders of Syria and Iraq popularly referred as Sykes-Picot Agreement. Sykes-Picot Agreement, which was done with the intention to protect British and French interests never did justice to the geo-political nature of region.
Mosul and the surrounding areas are predominantly populated by Sunni Muslims belonging to Turkmen or Arab heritage. Few generations back, many of them associated themselves with the Ottoman Empire and there is significant amount of nostalgia. Turkey sees this as an opportunity to win back the Mosul, which it lost about 100 years back. Also, along with Mosul comes the lucrative oil fields that are around the city. It appears that, Turkey is confident that people of Mosul would be happy to join Turkey rather than remaining with Shia-dominated Government of Iraq.