As an anticipated operation to take back Mosul from the terrorist Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is set to begin this month, Turkey’s defense minister voiced concerns over the post-ISIL governance of Mosul and warned against any demographic change in Iraq’s second largest city.
Speaking to reporters in the southern province of Antalya on Tuesday, Defense Minister Fikri Işık reiterated Turkey’s position about how the city should be governed once it is freed from ISIL. He argued that a new flood of refugees, as many as 1 million people, would set out for Turkey if plans for running the city are not well thought out.
“The anti-ISIL coalition forces are now planning to carry out two major operations; the Raqqa and Mosul operations. The Mosul operation is much more critical for Turkey,” the minister said.
One of Turkey’s major concerns is the preservation of Mosul’s demographic and ethnic composition. The defense minister spoke out strongly against any possible involvement of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Syrian Kurdish militia in the Mosul operation.
Turkey sees the PKK and its Syrian branch, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), as terrorist organizations. The PKK has been fighting the Turkish state for four decades for self-rule in southeastern Turkey.
PKK militants fought against ISIL elements at Sinjar, in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq in 2014 and have tense relations with the Massoud Barzani-led Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
While Turkey enjoys cordial relations with the Barzani administration in Arbil, it has reservations about the presence of KRG and Kurdish peshmerga forces in Mosul where Sunni Arabs constitute the majority of the population. The KRG is aware of the delicate situation and said it would agree to join the operation after securing Baghdad’s consent.