Al-Sudani Advisor Describes Turkish Army as Occupying Force, Angering Ankara

A Turkish general rejects al-Sudani security affairs advisor's statement, asserting his country's right to self-defense

The Iraqi government has escalated its criticism of ongoing Turkish interventions on its territory under the pretext of pursuing PKK fighters, indicating tension between the two countries despite efforts declared by both Baghdad and Ankara to contain an impending crisis.

In a clear address, Khalid Al-Yaqoubi, the advisor to the Prime Minister of Iraq on security affairs, described the presence of Turkish military bases on Iraqi soil as occupation, amid anger from Turkish officials, which could have significant implications for Turkish-Iraqi relations.

Speaking at a panel discussion titled “Security Forces Formations: An Objective Reading” at the 2024 Two Rivers Dialogue Forum held in Baghdad, Khalid Al-Yaqoubi referred to the presence of Turkish bases in Iraq as part of the occupation.

The Iraqi official aims, through this discourse, to alleviate pressure exerted by some political forces, including those sympathetic to Iran, regarding the presence of foreign forces in the country, including Turkish forces.

However, Al-Yaqoubi rejected that criticizing the presence of Turkish forces in the north of the country would lead to new military tensions, stating, “We have no choice but to resort to diplomatic avenues to confront security violations of Turkish military interventions in northern Iraq.”

However, Turkey responded to the statements of the Iraqi official during the panel discussion. Turkish admiral Ali Deniz Kutluk, a navy commander in the Turkish Navy, told Al-Yaqoubi, “Turkey has the right to self-defense, and it has no desire to occupy Iraq.”

He added, “The presence of bases here is to prevent attacks against Turkey from Iraqi territory.”

The Turkish military official rebuked the statements of the Iraqi advisor, stating, “When Iraq’s sovereignty is threatened, Turkey moves to protect its security, and we have deployed our forces in Iraq,” indicating that discussions are ongoing to withdraw Turkish forces from Iraq.

Turkey has many military bases in Iraqi Kurdistan, the most notable being the Bamerni base north of the city of Dohuk, which includes an airstrip. In recent years, the Turkish army has conducted many military operations to pursue PKK fighters.

These attacks have angered the Iraqi side, especially as they have caused many civilian casualties, and al-Sudani warned that his country would take the matter to the UN Security Council to stop Turkish attacks on its territory. The Turkish army has suffered heavy losses in recent months after its bases were attacked by PKK militants.

The Turkish government calls for the conclusion of a security agreement similar to that concluded by Baghdad with Tehran to ward off the danger of Kurdish rebels.

The Iraqi Prime Minister has repeatedly called for strengthening security cooperation with Turkey by securing borders through the conclusion of a security agreement similar to that concluded with Iran, but this remains out of reach according to observers.

Iran has succeeded in concluding a security agreement with Iraq to ward off armed Kurdish opposition from the borders and end armed displays in the border strip after these areas were attacked by Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

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