All Turkish citizens who are currently in Iraq were advised to leave the country, according to a statement published by the Turkish Foreign Ministry.
On December 9, the Ministry expanded its travel warning for Iraq citing security reasons. “The scope of our travel warning to Iraq has expanded to include all provinces except for Dohuk, Arbil and Sulaymaniyah (provinces located in Iraqi Kurdistan),” the ministry said in a statement posted on its website.
The Foreign Ministry announced that the state of security in Iraq can change rapidly and due to the worsening relations between the Turkish and the Iraqi government, the Ministry fears that Turkish citizens are not safe in Iraq.
Days ago, the Iraqi government asked from Ankara to withdraw its troops from Northern Iraq, as the Turkish government sent more military personnel and supplies in its Turkish military base at the Bashiqa region in Northern Iraq. However, Turkey denied withdrawing its troops saying that the troops will help Iraqi forces to win the fight against Daesh.
Because of the continuing dispute, the Turkish ministry gathered information suggesting that there are increasing threats targeting Turkish companies in Iraq, as well as declarations encouraging violence, abduction and attacks against Turkish citizens. “We strongly advise those (Turkish citizens) whose stay is not essential (in Iraq) to leave those provinces as soon as possible,” the Ministry said.
In addition, the foreign ministry advised the Turkish citizens living in the Iraqi Kurdish region to stay away from areas where operations are taking place against the terrorist organization, Daesh, and to obey warnings and guidance from the Iraqi Kurdish administration.
Kurdistan’s leader in Ankara
On December 9, Masoud Barzani, the leader of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) travelled in Ankara for key talks regarding the Turkish airstrikes against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the Iraqi region.
Turkish daily Hurriyet reported that Barzani first visited the headquarters of the Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MIT). The Turkish daily also reported that Barzani was scheduled to meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. However, no further information were provided about the meetings.
Days ago, AFP news agency reported that KRG accused Ankara of trying to expand its Turkish military base in the area. However, Davutoglu had sent a letter saying that the base will not be expanded.
Hurriyet also reported that there is a PKK dimension to the Turkish reinforcement, as PKK has a military presence in the area and its presence is considered a major threat for Turkey. According to Hurriyet, the PKK and the militia of its Syrian extension, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), have been fighting against Daesh in Iraq and Syria, but they have been trying to benefit from the situation for their own political agenda to establish a Kurdish state under its control in the region.
Shia militias against Turkey
Even before the tension between Ankara and Baghdad, the head of one of Iraq’s strongest Iranian-backed Shia militias, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, condemned Turkey as the Iraq’s biggest enemy. Khazali called then on Turkey to stop the passage of militants into Iraq and cut the flow of oil from Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region.
“The Turks – the Turkish intelligence – are the ones who ease the entrance of large numbers of Daesh (Islamic State), including suicide bombers, from Turkey to Syria and from Syria to Iraq, killing Iraqis by hundreds and thousands,” Reuters reported Khazali as saying in an interview with Iraqi state TV.
On 25 October, Iraqi military forces with the support of Shiite militia and backed by airstrikes carried out by the anti-Daesh coalition led by the US, have retaken the oil refinery at Baiji in Northern Iraq which was under the Daesh control.