ANKARA: Turkish and Iraqi counterterrorism operations to eliminate Daesh from the region could be stepped up following parliamentary elections and the recent capture of one of the group’s senior leaders, experts have claimed.
A recent joint intelligence operation between the two countries in northwestern Syria led to the apprehension by Iraqi security forces of Sami Jasim, deputy to the late former Daesh leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.
An Iraqi national, Jasim was also known to be a close aide to the current leader of the terror group, Abu Ibrahim Al-Hashimi Al-Quraishi. Turkey’s influence in Syria’s northwest, where for years it has had troop observation points, and its close ties with rebels in the region helped in the success of the operation.
A number of Iraqi Daesh members hiding in the region are believed to have been inspiring group affiliates in other war-torn countries such as Afghanistan.
Analysts now reckon that closer cooperation between Ankara and Baghdad would not only help eradicate the last remnants of Daesh but establish a new layer of trust between Turkey and the US on counterterrorism issues.
America had offered $5 million for information on Jasim and considered him as being “instrumental in managing finances for ISIS’ (Daesh) terrorist operations.”
Last year, Turkey’s Financial Crimes Investigation Board signed a deal with its Iraqi counterpart Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism.
Goktug Sonmez, director of security studies at Ankara-based think-tank Orsam, said Turkey’s Iraq policy was primarily focused on counterterrorism.
He told Arab News: “Initially this focus was limited with the fight against the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) and then it was expanded to the counterterrorism efforts against Daesh with Turkey becoming an integral part of the global coalition to fight against it.”
Parliamentary elections were held in Iraq on Oct. 10, and experts think the result of the elections will have direct repercussions on counterterrorism efforts depending on regional alliances.
Sonmez said: “Pro-Iranian Shiite segments have emerged as the biggest loser of the elections, while the Kurdistan Democratic Party significantly increased its share of votes. Following the election results, Ankara may boost its anti-Daesh operations with Iraqi central government.
“With the decrease of Iranian influence on Iraq, such cooperation between the two countries may also contribute to Washington’s efforts to sustain its links of alliance with the region.
“Both Gulf countries and Turkey can help the Baghdad government in this process by using the security card as a sustainable avenue of cooperation.
“From the perspective of military assistance and security collaboration, I expect Turkey will further provide Iraq with new military equipment for better identifying Daesh hideouts,” he added.
In August, Iraqi Defense Minister Juma Anad Saadoun announced that his country was considering buying Turkish drones, T129 tactical reconnaissance and attack helicopters, and electronic military hardware.
“Turkey has so far compiled a very comprehensive list of tens of thousands of foreign fighters who are or may be linked with Daesh. Following the recent elections, Turkey and Iraq can deepen their counterterrorism efforts based on Ankara’s strong documentation about the Daesh network in its neighborhood,” Sonmez said.
Turkey recently arrested several Daesh members on its home soil. In mid-September, security forces arrested three people in southern Turkey with alleged links to Daesh and the PKK, along with several documents and digital materials.
“Turkey’s domestic operations against Daesh go hand-in-hand with its cross-border operations. The data that Turkish security officials have obtained and the networks that have been uncovered with such operations have helped authorities in revealing the jihadists’ foreign contacts in countries of the region,” Sonmez added.
Between 2014 and this year, Turkey carried out more than 5,855 operations against Daesh, capturing and arresting more than 1,200 of the group’s members.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization and police have arrested eight people, including two Iranian spies, over an attempt to kidnap a former Iranian soldier, state-run Anadolu Agency reported on Wednesday.