A dispute between Iraq and Turkey has emerged as a dramatic geopolitical sideshow to the complicated military campaign to retake Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, from the Islamic State.I want to show you two maps. First, the Turkish Republic as we know it;
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey has insisted on a role in the battle for Mosul, trying to ramp up an involvement in Iraq that has already alarmed the Iraqi government.
“We have a historical responsibility in the region,” Mr. Erdogan said in a recent speech, drawing on his country’s history of empire and defeat, from Ottoman rule of the Middle East to its loss in World War I. “If we want to be both at the table and in the field, there is a reason.”
In response, the normally mild-mannered Iraqi prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, warned last week of a military confrontation between Turkey and Iraq. If Turkish forces intervene in Mosul, he said, they will not “be in a picnic.”
Turkey has already angered the Iraqi government by keeping a unit of troops at a base in Bashiqa, an area of northern Iraq near Mosul and surrounded by Islamic State territory. For more than a year, the Turks have also been training Kurdish pesh merga forces and Sunni Arab fighters in Iraq, including a militia led by a former governor of Mosul, Atheel al-Nujaifi.
The Turkish military deployment, even just to train local forces, has been bitterly opposed by the Iraqi government, and Mr. Abadi has demanded that the troops leave.
Now that the battle for Mosul has started, Mr. Erdogan has given a number of incendiary speeches in which he has seemed to suggest that he is itching for the Turkish military to become directly involved in the fighting.
There is another map that I've seen in a few places over the summer and fall. At first, I did a raised eyebrow eye-roll, but as I saw it more, just pursed my lips at seeing it. Even when one version or another showed up in newspapers, I dismissed it as standard issue populist chest thumping. Here, take a look;
Now I want you to watch the video below. I'm not eye-rolling anymore, I'm watching a bit closer.
Turkish president says "we did not accept current borders voluntarily." pic.twitter.com/XFuwBJQiyJ— Turkey Times (@turkey_times) October 25, 2016