Alwaght- On Tuesday, Turkey launched drone strikes on an Iraqi army border force which Ankara claimed to have intended to negotiate with the PKK militants in Sidakan in the Iraqi Kurdish region, triggering unprecedented reactions by the Iraqi media and political observers.
The attack killed three Iraqi army officers and severely wounded two others. General Mohammad Rashid, the commander of the 2nd brigade of border forces and Major General Zubair Hali, the commander of the 3rd brigade of border forces, were the top figures killed by the Turkish raid.
The action by the Turkish military drew strong-toned reaction from the Iraqis who now speak about the need for Baghdad to respond firmly to Ankara. Following the attack, a visit to Baghdad of the Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar that was scheduled for Wednesday was canceled by Iraq. Baghdad's government also summoned the Turkish ambassador as the bilateral relations are now subject to escalated tensions while Turkey continues violation of Iraqi territorial sovereignty.
Turkish attack message
Attacking top Iraqi military officers could not go ahead without a green light from top political leaders in Ankara for the consequences it could have for the bilateral ties. Carrying out the attack a day before a planned visit to Iraq by the Turkish defense minister carries the message that the Turkish strategists choose to focus on and check the destabilizing moves on the borders with Iraq over the security cooperation with Baghdad to respond to the common risks posed by the terrorist groups.
Syria experience showed that Ankara through the neo-Ottomanist approach of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pursues expansionist ambitions by the instrumental look at terrorism. From opening the borders to ISIS and Al-Qaeda terrorists to Syria and Iraq to several operations in the depth of the Syrian territories and even occupation of parts of northern Syria under the ruse of the battle against terrorism show that Ankara leaders follow their own agenda even if it takes taking advantage of most ferocious terrorist factions.
Iraq losing patience with Turkey
The scale of the reaction by the Iraqi officials and political factions to the Turkish drone raid to a large extent displays the fact that Baghdad is losing patience with Ankara and in the current conditions Iraqis are more resolved than ever about stopping frequent violations of their national sovereignty by the Turkish military.
As the most serious and immediate response to the attack, Iraq’s foreign ministry canceled the Turkish defense minister’s scheduled visit to Baghdad and Erbil. Also, President Barham Saleh of Iraq and Iraq foreign ministry spokesman Yahya Rasoul denounced Turkey for its breach of the Iraqi sovereignty.
At partisan levels, many politicians called on Baghdad to review its ties with Ankara and respond to the strike. The Public Mobilization Forces (PMF), a voluntary force that was set up in 2014 in opposition to ISIS, blasted the strike and called for a decisive response to the Turkish hostility.
The collection of the reactions at present can carry a message telling of Baghdad’s ultimatum to Ankara. Actually, there is no doubt that Turkey repeatedly disrespects Iraqi sovereignty but the recent attack is distinct from the past ones. Just unlike the past, Turkey did not strike the PKK fighters and directly targeted the Iraqi army personnel. Meanwhile, Turkey’s justification of the attack under PKK excuse can never be credible because the Iraqi forces can meet any force within the borders of their country’s territory.
Punishing Turkey using trade
The most important instrument at Iraq’s disposal to press Turkey to stop its hostilities is the trade. Certainly, Iraq is one of the key export destinations for Turkish goods. In 2019, the bilateral trade grew 2.8 percent compared to the year before and reached $15.8 billion. The trade in 2018 touched $13 billion.
This substantial trade volume, in which the exports to the Kurdish region and other Iraqi provinces account for the largest part, is vital for Ankara and Erdogan personally. Suspending the exports or scaling them down can represent a strong warning to the Turkish government. In fact, Erbil and Baghdad can replace Turkish goods with others in a bid to use trade instrumentally against the Turks for disrespect to Iraq’s territorial sovereignty.
Filing lawsuit with Security Council
Iraq more than once sued Turkey in the past years in the United Nations. But it seems that Baghdad’s lobbying and pressures have not so far come into fruition in New York. Now remains a more active role by the Iraqi foreign ministry in drafting and passing a UN Security Council resolution against Turkey. With Ankara violations lacking legitimate background, Iraq’s case has a big chance of success to condemn the Turkish actions. Baghdad-Erbil unity, Turkish goods import cut, and a lawsuit with the UNSC can actively play a role to end Turkey’s attacks and operations in northern Iraq.
Bringing Arab countries to Baghdad side against Ankara
Another instrument in Iraq’s hands in the face of Turkey is the Arab states that can be brought under a unified camp with Iraq to help push against the Turkish actions in the Iraqi territories. Following the attack, the Arab League released a condemnation statement in support of Baghdad. This statement comes as Turkish tensions with major Arab countries like Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Egypt are brewing.
On Tuesday, the (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council chief Nayef al-Hajraf in a meeting with the Turkish ambassador to Saudi Arabia expressed objection to remarks by the Turkish defense minister against the UAE in a recent interview with Aljazeera new network. Al-Hajraf implied military unity of the Arab bloc in the face of the Turkish threats against the UAE.
This issue considered, with the Saudi, Emirati, and Egyptian sway over the Arab League, Iraq has the opportunity to persuade the Arab states to rally behind Baghdad in denouncement of Ankara's actions.