Turkey reportedly amasses tanks, troops near border to Iraq, vows to tackle ‘threat’
Ankara is deploying heavy armor, including tanks to the border near Iraq, media reports say. Turkish Defense Minister has meanwhile said that the military will tackle potential “increase” of threats to the country.
Turkish tanks as well as armored vehicles have started moving into the town of Silopi, located close to the border with Iraq, Turkish Dogan news agency and Reuters report citing army sources.
According to the country’s Defense Minister Fikri Isik, the deployment is part of anti-terrorist fight and is also linked to the developments in Iraq.
"We will not allow the threat to Turkey to increase," Isik told broadcaster A Haber as cited by Reuters. Ankara has “no obligation” to wait until the fighters of the Kurdistan Workers Partry (PKK), considered by Turkey terrorists, will seize territories in Iraq's Sinjar region, around 115 km south of Silopi, Isik added.
Earlier in October, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu warned the PKK of using bases in northern Iraq, where its main bases are located. “If there is a threat posed to Turkey, we are ready to use all our resources including a ground operation to eliminate that threat,” Hurriyet daily news quoted the official as saying.
Strong words came from the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday who promised to increase troops deloyments near Silopi. The leader also cautioned Shiite militias in northern Iraq of advancing at the town of Tal Afar, home to ethnic Turkmen.
“If al-Hashd al-Shaabi [Shiite militia] causes terror there in [Tal Afar], our response to it will be different,” Erdogan said.
The deployment comes at a tense time when Ankara and Baghdad are at odds over the Turkish military presence in Iraq.
On October 23, Turkish tanks and artillery aided the advance of Kurdish Peshmerga fighters against IS jihadists near stronghold of Mosul. That came despite Baghdad’s repeated protests against Turkish military presence on its soil.
“This is something the Iraqis will handle and the Iraqis will liberate Mosul and the rest of the territories,” Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on October 5, declining any Turkish involvement.
Ankara officially maintains some 25 tanks as well as 150 troops and a staff of “military advisors” estimated to reach some 2,000 at the Bashiqa camp near Mosul. Abadi called the presence a violation of sovereignty and said Turkish “inside Iraqi territories has no justification.”