A working guide to what's going on between Iraq and Turkey

Published December 9th, 2015 - 01:23 GMT
The Iraqi government's 48-hour deadline passed Tuesday for Turkish troops to leave northern Iraq, but its more than just Turkey and Baghdad that are deadlocked. (AFP/File)
The Iraqi government's 48-hour deadline passed Tuesday for Turkish troops to leave northern Iraq, but its more than just Turkey and Baghdad that are deadlocked. (AFP/File)

A 48-hour deadline given to Turkey by the Iraqi government for Turkish troops to leave the country's north expired Tuesday. Now Turkey has said it would not deploy more troops to the region, but would also not be removing pre-existing soldiers. 

Amid all the other ridiculous things happening in Middle East news this week, you probably haven't had time to pay much attention. But the brewing fight is raising big questions about the international politics playing out in Syria and Iraq today.

Here are five things to know. 

1.150 Turkish troops were sent to northern Iraq last Friday, apparently meant to replace pre-existing Turkish forces in the area, according to Ankara and the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

2. But Baghdad wasn't pleased. On Dec. 5, Iraq's foreign minister summoned the Turkish ambassador over the move. In a statement that Saturday, the ministry said the troops had been deployed without the knowledge of or permission from the Iraqi capital and their presence was now being considered a "hostile act."

3. Turkey, meanwhile, disagreed. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said troops had been deployed since last year as part of a training operation for Kurdish peshmerga troops in northern Iraq's Mosul, held by Daesh since June 2014. US officials also said they were aware of the presence, but that it was not part of US-coalition operations. But the KRG, who coordinates closely with Ankara, supports the troops as an aid to the upcoming battle to retake Mosul.

4. As a sovereign nation who did not give prior approval or request to Turkey, Iraq said the troops were in violation of international law. This week, Baghdad's government ordered the troops' removal within 48 hours, threatening airstrikes against them if they failed to comply. 

5. As the deadline passes, Russia is jumping in as well. Especially in the wake of Turkey's shoot down of a Russian jet last month, relations between Moscow and Ankara are more on edge than ever. Russia has backed Baghdad and called for a closed-door UN session to address the issue with the four other permanent UN members—China, US, Britain and France. Meanwhile, Iraq has asked NATO to pressure Turkey.

 


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