News / Middle East

Turkey Playing Increasing Role in Iraq

Turkish soldiers in armored vehicles patrol in Sirnak province on the Turkish-Iraqi border, October 21, 2011.
Turkish soldiers in armored vehicles patrol in Sirnak province on the Turkish-Iraqi border, October 21, 2011.

Multimedia

Audio
Dorian Jones

The U.S. secretary of defense is visiting NATO ally Turkey. He arrived in the Turkish capital, Ankara, after attending a withdrawal ceremony Thursday in Bagdad of American troops all of whom are due to leave by the end of the month. With the U.S. withdrawal, Turkey is now being seen by Washington as playing a potential key role in Iraq.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is spending two days in Turkey meeting the country's political leadership, with Iraq expected to be a key topic on the agenda.

The NATO allies are already increasingly cooperating in the region.

Last month, the U.S. transferred drones from Iraq to the Turkish airbase of Incirlik close to the Iraqi border.

International relations expert Soli Ozel of Kadir Has University says with U.S. forces pulling out of Iraq at the end of the month, that cooperation will only deepen.

"I suppose many more drones, flying over Iraq in order to continue to monitoring things," said Ozel.  "And I guess they want Incirlik to be open, more open, to American use as well. Politically, they would want Turkey to make sure that things never get of hand between Kurds and Arabs. And in [a] way maintaining the autonomy or viability of the Kurdistan regional government territory."

The semi-autonomous Iraqi Kurdish region, which borders Turkey, is, according to observers, strategically important to Washington.

Last month, Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Selcuk Unal said Washington has proposed to take over the influential role of training Iraqi military personal, now that U.S. troops are pulling out.

"We have been contributing in training military elements in Iraq within the framework of NATO," said Unal.  "This issue has come up to the agenda, and of course, we will be considering it.

Such a move is seen as strengthening Turkey's influence in greater Iraq and countering what observers say is expected growing Iranian influence with the withdrawal of U.S. forces.

Diplomatic columnist Semih Idiz for the Turkish daily Milliyet says Ankara shares Washington's concerns about growing Iranian influence in Iraq.

"The increase of the Iranian through Shia elements in Iraq, that is what Turkey will be worried about," added Idiz.  "And with Turkey there is a political competition going on for influence between Iran and Turkey."

Ankara has in the past few years been seeking to extend its political influence in Iraq. It reportedly backed a coalition of Sunni and secular groups led by Ayad Allawi in Iraq's general election last year, against the incumbent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who is seen as being close to Tehran.

But international relations expert Soli Ozel says while Ankara may be willing to challenge Iranian influence, there is already growing irritation in Baghdad towards Ankara.

"It will want to play a role, but just last week, Maliki was rather curt about Turkey and what Turkey was trying to do," noted Ozel.  "So relations may not be that great. And that is not a surprise since Turkey did not want Maliki to be prime minister."

Any attempt by Ankara to challenge Iranian influence in Iraq will likely strain relations with Tehran. Those relations are already under pressure over Ankara's support for the opposition against Tehran's key ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.  

Murat Bilhan, former senior Turkish diplomat and professor of international relations at Kultur University, says Iraq is part of a wider trend driving apart the once close allies.

"They have diverged, that is a fact," said Bilhan.  "It's a rival anyway - rival in central Asia, the Persian Gulf, Syria and the whole region."

That prospect, observers say, will be undoubtedly welcomed by Washington. The expected growing cooperation between Ankara and Washington on Iraq, they say, will only strengthen bilateral relations, which will only add to Tehran's angst.

You May Like

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israeli
X
Carolyn Presutti
July 23, 2014 1:21 AM
The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israel

The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video NASA Focuses on Earth-Like Planets

For decades, looking for life elsewhere in the universe meant listening for signals that could be from distant civilizations. But recent breakthroughs in space technology refocused some of that effort toward finding planets that may harbor life, even in its primitive form. VOA’s George Putic reports on a recent panel discussion at NASA’s headquarters, in Washington.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.

AppleAndroid