Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan challenged Baghdad on Tuesday over the participation of Shiite militias in an operation to retake Mosul, saying Baghdad is the administrator of an army consisting completely of Shiites.
“They say 30,000 Shiite militants are coming. Those Shiites should be prepared for what they will face,” said Erdoğan, speaking at a ceremony marking the beginning of the 2016-2017 academic year for higher education at the presidential palace on Tuesday.
On Monday a US-backed force launched a military operation in Mosul to liberate the northern Iraqi city of Mosul from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Underlining the prevailing Sunni Arab and Turkoman ethnic and sectarian structure of Mosul, Erdoğan called on the US to understand Ankara’s position.
“We have been talking to our American friends and coalition partners. We say you will not trap us in this issue. We will not be trapped.”
Recalling the “Misak-ı Milli” (National Pact), a 1920 set of decisions made by the last Ottoman Parliament including Mosul within Ottoman territory, Erdoğan also emphasized Turkey’s historic responsibilities concerning developments in Syria and Iraq.
“If we say we want to be both at the table and in the field, there is a reason. On the one hand diplomatic talks are continuing, and on the other, preparations for the ground effort are ongoing,” he added.
Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım has said Turkish jets are taking part in the Mosul operation.
Speaking at his party’s parliamentary group meeting on Tuesday, Yıldırım said: “We are closely following what is happening there [in Mosul]. We have made our calculations and plans. We will take part in the operation, we will be at the table as well; we stand behind our words. The militia we trained at Bashiqa [camp] is now at the front [of the operation]. The Nineveh Fighters [trained by Turkey] have joined the operation. Our air forces are also taking part in aerial operations.”
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi shared his concerns with foreign diplomats in Baghdad on Monday over Turkey’s involvement in the escalation of tensions among groups in Iraq and warned the Turkish government against posing a threat to his country’s sovereignty.
“We demanded Turkey withdraw its troops from the north [of Iraq]. Turkish troops remaining in the region will damage the historic relations of the two countries,” al-Abadi said.