12-12-2019 08:40 PM Jerusalem Timing

Iraq Warns Turkey to Pull Forces, Ankara Says Unlikely

Iraq Warns Turkey to Pull Forces, Ankara Says Unlikely

Baghdad warned Ankara on Monday that time is running out to remove forces it sent to northern Iraq without permission, but Turkey indicated it was unlikely to do so.

Baghdad warned Ankara on Monday that time is running out to remove forces it sent to northern Iraq without permission, but Turkey indicated it was unlikely to do so.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said there were "only 24 hours left" of the 48 that Iraq gave Turkey to remove tanks and soldiers sent to a base near Mosul.

"We must be prepared and ready to defend Iraq and its sovereignty,” Ababdi said as he visited the country's air force headquarters, according to his office.

Iraqi PM Haider Abadi"The air force has the capability... to protect Iraq and its borders from any threat it faces," the premier said.

A senior Turkish official said Monday that Ankara was unlikely to withdraw the forces, which number between 150 and 300 soldiers backed by 20 tanks, that were deployed to a base in the Bashiqa area, near IS's Iraqi hub Mosul.

"We expect them to remain," the official said, though "it will depend on discussions."

Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari clarified Monday that the demand for the withdrawal applied only to the recent deployment and not to Turkish trainers, who have been working with forces in the country's north for some time.

"The Iraqi demand (for the withdrawal) is only related to the violation recorded by the presence of Turkish armed forces without coordination with Iraq," Jaafari told a joint news conference with his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

"The advisers are another issue; there are advisers from a number of countries and we accepted the principle of advisers but not the principle of ground forces entering Iraqi territory," Jaafari said.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has sought to downplay the recent deployment as "routine rotation activity" associated with the training effort, and as "reinforcement against security risks".

ISIL Oil Trade  
While Abadi has repeatedly said Iraq needs all the help it can get to fight IS, he is walking a fine line between receiving that support and projecting sovereignty.

On the other hand, Abadi joined Russia and Iran in linking Turkey with oil smuggling by the Takfiri group, ISIL (so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Levant).

During a meeting with Steinmeier, Abadi stressed the "importance of stopping oil smuggling by (ISIL) terrorist gangs, the majority of which is smuggled via Turkey," his office said.

Russia has accused Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his family of involvement in the ISIL oil trade.