Hours after Turkey deployed tanks and military vehicles to its southern border town of Silopi — and just days after Turkey’s President Recep Erdogan said his military might pursue Kurdish fighters across the border into Iraq — Rudaw news service reported Wednesday that Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has warned the Turkish military it will “pay a heavy price” if it crosses the border.
“We do not want to fight Turkey. We do not want a confrontation with Turkey,” Abadi said while speaking to journalists in Baghdad on Tuesday.
“God forbid, even if we engage in war with them, the Turks will pay a heavy price. They will be damaged. Yes, we too will be damaged, but whenever a country fights a neighboring country, there will be no winner, both will end up losing.”
Stating that “[they] will fight them and [they will] look at them and treat them as the enemy” if Turkish forces make a move into Iraq, Abadi added:
“We are not afraid of Turkey, but the aftermath of the emergence of a new war. We do not want that. We want [a] reduction of the problems, not escalation.”
Last week, President Erdogan declared he may order his military to cross over into the northwestern Iraqi region on Sinjar. The Turkish leader claimed defense as a justification. Sinjar, he says, is the center of a growing Kurdish presence along the border.
From an October 27 report by the Associated Press:
“In a speech delivered on Thursday, Erdogan said the Sinjar region is fast becoming a base for the leaders of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, similar to northern Iraq’s Qandil Mountains where the group’s commanders long maintained their headquarters.”
As Anti-Media has detailed, the Erdogan administration believes the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) fighting alongside the U.S. in Iraq and Syria are tied to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), whom the Turks hold responsible for a three-decade-old insurgency still going on within Turkey.
Erdogan has gone on record to say that Turkey has no intention of waiting for threats to appear before responding. As such, statements like the following, made last week, may soon begin to hold more weight:
“We cannot permit Sinjar, because the PKK is there.”
Jump to Tuesday, when Reuters reported that “Turkey’s military has begun deploying tanks and armored vehicles to the town of Silopi near the Iraqi border.”
Turkey’s defense minister, Fikri Isik, said Turkey has “no obligation” to wait as the PKK, according to the Turks, secures a foothold in northwestern Iraq.
“We will not allow the threat to Turkey to increase,” he stated.
Turkey, incidentally, has already proven a willingness to fire on the Kurds, even as the U.S. continues to maintain the Kurdish YPG militias are crucial to the fight against ISIS in the Middle East.
But with Turkey emerging as an unpredictable — and potentially volatile — factor in Middle Eastern conflicts, Iraq’s Prime Minister Abadi may be thinking prudently. As he stated:
“[W]e have made our preparations in advance. We are still afraid of any objectionable step that might be taken. We hope it does not reach that point.”