Turkish television is suddenly awash with talk of Turkey’s “historic rights” in Mosul, displaying maps of the late Ottoman era that place the city under Turkish rule. Newspaper columns draw attention to one of the founding documents of the modern republic – the 1920 National Pact signed by the outgoing Ottoman parliament – which places Mosul inside Turkey’s national borders.
The Mosul frenzy was kicked off by a public spat between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi in advance of the military campaign to recapture the Islamic State stronghold. Ankara expected the Turkish military to have a role in the offensive — something that was supported by the US Defence Secretary but rejected by al-Abadi.
In particular, Ankara wanted a role for the Sunni forces (al-Hashd al-Watani) it had been training at a base north of Mosul and loudly protested the presence of Shia militia forces (Hashd el-Shaabi) in the liberation of the city. Another problem for Ankara was the possibility that, just like in Syria, the Pentagon would rely on PKK-affiliates in parts of the campaign. Turks asked that the Sincar Resistance Units be excluded from the planning of operations in Iraq.
But as is the custom in Ankara, these demands quickly turned into a loud public campaign, further escalating tensions with Baghdad.
“We have a historical responsibility in the region”, Erdoğan said, “If we want to be both at the table and in the field, there is a reason. […] We have to solve the Mosul problem in Mosul. If we sacrifice Mosul, we will have the problem at our borders.