What's In Blue

Posted Fri 18 Dec 2015

Meeting on Iraq’s Complaint Regarding Turkish Deployment near Mosul

This afternoon (18 December), following the Syria ministerial meeting, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman will brief the Security Council on Iraq’s complaint regarding the Turkish deployment of an armoured battalion to the Ba’shiqa region near Mosul. It seems likely that the foreign ministers of Iraq and Turkey will participate, given that both are in New York to attend this morning’s meeting of the International Syria Support Group. The briefing will be followed by Council consultations. At press time, it was unclear if there would be any outcome.

Iraq sent a letter to the Security Council on 11 December regarding Turkey’s 3 December deployment. It called the entry of Turkish forces a provocation and a violation of international law as well as the UN Charter, and asked the Security Council to order a Turkish withdrawal (S/2015/963).

Turkey has stated that this deployment is part of an existing arrangement with Iraq to train Kurdish Peshmerga forces and local militias fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). It has further stated that its actions are taken in self-defense against the ISIS threat emanating from Iraq, arguing its actions are in line with article 51 of the UN Charter.

Some analysts have characterised Turkey’s deployment as an attempt to counter the growing role Iran and Russia are playing in both Iraq and Syria. Meanwhile, the Turkish deployment has made Iraqi politicians even more suspicious of foreign forces, and has jeopardised the expected deployment of US special operations forces.

Council members are aware that Turkey has been carrying out training activities in Ba’shiqa since March 2015, with the permission of Baghdad. However, the size and composition of the newly deployed force was an unexpected development. This Council meeting comes in the wake of unsuccessful attempts to resolve the issue bilaterally between Ankara and Baghdad. The US has publicly stated that it does not support missions in Iraq without Baghdad’s blessing, and has been working with the parties to de-escalate the situation. Both the US and Jordan have tried to downplay the situation in the Security Council and avoid a formal meeting.

On 8 December Russia requested a briefing on the Turkish deployment under “any other business” in consultations. It seems that during consultations Russia raised Turkey’s downing of a Russian jet near the Syrian border in late November, and suggested that Turkey was a reckless partner in the anti-ISIS fight. Russia also proposed that Council members issue a press statement or press elements in support of Iraq’s position. This was opposed by the UK and the US who argued that there was no consensus on the issue.

Today’s meeting was requested by Iraq on 16 December. Several Council members are of the view that, irrespective of Turkey’s understanding of pre-existing arrangements, Iraq’s demands for a withdrawal should be respected. However, very few of these Council members believe an outcome will be sought today as there is still no consensus on this issue.

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