Baghdad, Christian MP: Turkish interference in Mosul sets scene for regional conflict

The liberation of Mosul and the future of the city pits Iraq against Turkey. Ankara wants a leading role in operations against Daesh and to entrust the city to Sunnis and Turkmen. Yonadam Kanna: this interference is likely to cause a "popular uprising" supported by Iran. We must preserve the multicultural soul of Mosul and the country.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) – Turkey’s interference in "Iraq's internal affairs poses a serious risks", because it could give way to a "popular uprising" of the Shiite population "supported by Iran" with fears it could set the scene for a “regional conflict", the Christian MP Yonadam Kanna, tells AsiaNews, commenting on the ongoing tensions between Baghdad and Ankara. Kanna is the leader of the Assyrian Democratic Movement and a member of the Parliamentary Committee on Labour and Social Affairs. For the Christian politician it is "a problem that not only involves Iraq, but the entre international community”.

In recent days the confrontation between Turkey and Iraq has been rekindled. Baghdad summoned the Turkish ambassador and Ankara summoned the Iraqi one. The was crisis sparked by President Turkish Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s announcing the Turkish participation in the offensive against the jihadists of the Islamic State (IS) in Mosul, outlining a series of ethnic and political scenarios for the city at the end of military operations.

According to Erdogan only "Sunni Arabs and Kurds, along with the Turkmen should remain in Mosul” - in what is the second most important city in Iraq. This is in sharp contrast to the calls for unity and multiculturalism of many political and religious leaders of Iraq, including Chaldean Patriarch Mar Raphael Louis Sako. Moreover it would erase the Shiite Muslim and Christian presence from the northern metropolis.

Erdogan's words have sparked the protest of government leaders in Baghdad and the wrath of the Iraqi Shiite community which accounts for over 60% of the population. After a fiery meeting, the Iraqi Parliament told Erdogan to "immediately withdraw" his troops in northern Iraq, a few dozen kilometers from Mosul.

The replica of the Turkish authorities, through Prime Minister Binali Yildirim mouth, was that Ankara’s troops will remain in Iraqi territory, "regardless of what the government in Baghdad says".

For months hundreds of Turkish trainers, advisers and soldiers operate in the area - as is the case in Syria - on the pretext of "fighting terrorism." Speaking on the issue, the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi stressed that the presence of a Turkish military contingent in north of the country paves the way for the outbreak of a "regional conflict". This is why Iraq has asked for an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council and does not exclude the possibility of "revising" its financial and economic relations with Turkey.

Interviewed by AsiaNews Yonadam Kanna said that there has been a "presence" of Turkish troops on Iraqi territory "for years", especially in Kurdistan, "with US approval”. Thus far for mainly peacekeeping, but of late this presence has taken a more aggressive connotation, particularly in the unhidden aim of preventing a strong Kurdish reality from gaining strength.

"They passed the Iraqi border - confirms the Christian politician - with personnel and equipment, and are now a few dozen kilometers from Mosul, claiming a leading role in the liberation". However, their presence "complicates" operations against the Islamic Republic and the work of re-conquest of the city. This is why, he adds, "we voted in parliament to request that Ankara does not interfere in our internal affairs."

The hope is that "Turkish diplomacy" can "understand" how delicate the situation is, said Yonadam Kanna, and "put pressure on government leaders" to reconsider their choice and abandon "their sectarian aims" for the city. "Their words, their allocation plans along sectarian lines in Mosul – he warns- make the offensive against Daesh" even more complicated.

The politician also recalled that the Islamic State jihadists "have been present " in Mosul and the Nineveh Plain for two years, and "so far Turkey had done nothing to solve the problem." Now Ankara's action is dictated "by economic, political, strategic interests", but remains unacceptable for Iraq and its people. "We reject the sectarian vision of Mosul - adds the MP - because the history of the city is characterized by a multicultural and inter-religious expression that embraces Christians, Shiites, Yazidis, and other minorities. Unity in diversity, as pointed out by the Patriarch Sako, is a value for us”.

Finally, he does not hide the fears of an escalation of the confrontation between Ankara and Baghdad to a regional conflict. "The risk is Iran's intervention, which would make the situation even more difficult. The liberation of Mosul is a task of the international community but, later, the journey of reconciliation between Iraq's souls is a matter for the local authorities and those in Baghdad, not neighboring countries. " I hope, he concludes “that this dispute is resolved in a peaceful manner with diplomacy, not through the use of force and tanks".