Turkey could be key to Iraq’s Tal Afar operation

Iraqi army fire against Daesh militants on the outskirts of Tal Afar, Iraq, on Sunday,August 20, 2017. (REUTERS)
Updated 21 August 2017
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Turkey could be key to Iraq’s Tal Afar operation

ANKARA: Following Sunday’s launch of a ground operation by Iraqi forces to retake Tal Afar from Daesh, Ankara’s stance on the offensive will be decisive as the northwestern city is predominantly populated by Turkmen, who have close ethnic and historical ties to Turkey.
Ankara has not yet released a statement on the operation. Situated west of Mosul, which was liberated from Daesh last month, it is estimated that 2,000 Daesh fighters are protecting Tal Afar, including foreign fighters.
US-led coalition airplanes have increased airstrikes against Daesh targets in the city, which has been held by the group since mid-2014.
Ankara has previously voiced opposition to participation by Iraq’s Hashd Al-Shaabi, an umbrella group dominated by Shiite forces that Turkey considers a “terrorist” entity.
Ankara has underlined the need to consider ethnic and sectarian balances in the region.
Turkey has begun building a wall on its southeastern border to halt a possible influx of militants.
As part of its integrated border-management policy, the country also plans to build a security wall on its border with Iraq.
“Beyond being a predominantly Turkmen city, Tal Afar is situated in a very strategic region, 61 km from the Turkish border and 60 km from Syria,” Ali Semin, a Middle East expert from Istanbul-based think tank BILGESAM, told Arab News.
“In the past, Turkey even considered opening a second border gate with Iraq at Tal Afar.”
Semin said Turkey should engage in diplomatic efforts to prevent any sectarian conflict in the city between Turkmen and Iranian Shiites.
Ankara “should be in constant dialogue with Turkmen and the Iraqi Turkmen Front to find common ground with Shiite forces in the region,” he said.
“Turkey should also provide logistical support in the liberation of Tal Afar, in close coordination with Iraq’s central government.”
Maj. Gen. Mohammed Baqeri, Iran’s military chief, recently visited Turkey to discuss regional conflicts with top civilian and military figures in Ankara.
Semin said terrorists’ infiltration into Turkey from Tal Afar is a real concern for Ankara, so it should cooperate with the international community — especially with those conducting a proxy war in the region — regarding intelligence-sharing.
But Cahit Armagan Dilek, director of the 21st Century Turkey Institute, told Arab News that Daesh terrorists caught in Tal Afar are unlikely to flee to Turkey. They will either be killed in Tal Afar or flee to Deir Ezzor province in Syria, he said.


Iran’s Hassan Rouhani may skip UN meet over US visa delay

Updated 18 September 2019

Iran’s Hassan Rouhani may skip UN meet over US visa delay

TEHRAN: Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani and his delegation could be forced into skipping next week’s UN General Assembly because the United States has yet to issue them visas, state media said Wednesday.
Rouhani and his delegation had been scheduled to travel to New York for the annual UN gathering on Monday, but that was now looking unlikely given the lack of visas, state news agency IRNA said.
“If the visas aren’t issued in a few hours, this trip will probably be canceled,” IRNA reported.
The delegation includes Iran’s top diplomat Mohammad Javad Zarif, who the United States imposed sanctions against on July 31.
The foreign minister had been due to travel to New York on Friday morning, according to IRNA.
The absence of Rouhani would ruin France’s bid to arrange a meeting between him and US President Donald Trump as part of European efforts to de-escalate tensions between the arch-foes.
“Iran’s absence will show that in contrast with its commitments to the United Nations and international organizations within the framework of agreements, diplomacy has no value for the United States,” IRNA said.
“Although the Islamic Republic of Iran has not left the scene and it continues its active diplomacy, the US government must answer for its behavior,” it added.
The UN General Assembly debate is due to begin on Tuesday.
As the host government, the United States generally is obliged to issue visas to diplomats who serve at UN headquarters.
But Iran and the United States have been at loggerheads since May last year when Trump abandoned a 2015 nuclear deal and began reimposing sanctions in its campaign of “maximum pressure.”
Iran responded by scaling back its commitments under the landmark accord, which gave it the promise of sanctions relief in return for limiting the scope of its nuclear program.