Iraq is in precarious conditions these days. Turkish troops have entered Iraqi territory and violated the sovereignty of the state. In the meantime, Ankara has been accused of supporting and collaborating with ISIS. Ankara’s relations with Iraq and with its other neighbors are also not in favorable conditions. Iranian Diplomacy has interviewed Mowaffak al-Rubaie, former national security advisor (2004-2009) and a senior figure of the State of Law Coalition, on the current state of affairs in Iraq. The interview was done by Ali Mousavi Khalkhali:
IRD: You have recently spoken of evidence which proves Turkey is supporting ISIS. Have you also informed the Turks about this evidence?
MR: Yes. The Turks are providing financial and arms support for ISIS, even providing them with daily logistical items such as food and drinks. These are well-documented and we have informed both the Turkish side and international parties about them.
IRD: What was Turkey’s response?
MR: They deny any financial or arms assistance for ISIS. To be honest, they do not care about our objections, since they know that Americans are also aware of this issue and still they don’t take action against Ankara. Europeans also know the truth but do not take any measure. In the meantime, Turkey’s relations with Russia are strained and Moscow is looking for an opportunity to put Ankara under pressure. The Turks are afraid that Russia may take action against them in international organizations.
IRD: Do you mean that Turkey is actually providing ISIS with money?
MR: Not in the way the media put it. It is not like they are handing cash to ISIS. Turkey buys the oil smuggled from Iraq with a very low price. In one period, they bought oil as cheap as 7 dollars. That is, the oil that Da’esh extracted from Syria and Iraq was sent to Turkey, and sold for 7 dollars there. A portion of this oil was consumed in Turkey and the rest was offered to the international markets with an international price. It was a lucrative trade.
IRD: How much oil does Turkey receive from ISIS?
MR: There are no exact figures, but it is something between 170 thousand to 300 thousand barrels. This volume may change however, since ISIS does not possess an organized system to transfer oil. But this volume is sent to Turkey per month, some is consumed there and the rest is sold at a global price to the international market.
IRD: How do you see Turkey’s recent incursion into northern Iraq?
MR: Ankara is deeply worried with regional developments. On the one hand, they have no leverage in Syria, and on the other hand, they have become weakened vis-à-vis influential regional actors like Iran and Russia. Turkey is also worried about the Iran-Russia-Iraq-Syria-Hezbollah axis, and the security coordination between them. They don’t want to fall out in competition.
Diplomatic tension against Russia has also added to their problems. They have failed to reach their intended goals through downing the Russian bomber and are now in a weaker position.
IRD: Iraq has frequently asked Turkey to withdraw its troops from the north of the country, but to no avail. What are the options for Baghdad to force Turkey out of Iraqi territory?
MR: The Iraqi government has carried out whatever it could in order that the Turkish troops leave northern Iraq, but unfortunately these efforts have been unsuccessful so far. We have put Turkey under pressure via NATO, the US and the UN Security Council. If those pressures fail to bear fruit and Turkey insists on keeping its troops in northern Iraq, the Iraqi government reserves its right to use other options to force Turkey to respect its sovereignty.
IRD: Could the government of Iraq resort to the military option?
MR: Iraq has never sought military confrontation. We aim for the best of relations with our neighbors and want to solve our problems via diplomatic means. Nonetheless, we insist on preserving our territorial integrity and preventing the presence of foreign troops in our soil.
IRD: Have the Iraqi government’s pressures had any impact on the Turkish government?
MR: Turkish troops have left the Bashiqa camp and that shows that pressures have not been totally ineffective. However, Turkey has moved these troops to the Kurdistan region and maintains military presence there. We will continue our pressures until the government of Turkey respects our territorial integrity. If there needs to be any military presence by Ankara, it should be coordinated with the central government in Baghdad.
IRD: How is the progress in war against ISIS?
MR: Our war against ISIS has witnessed significant progress, although it may have been slow. Ramadi will be soon cleansed of ISIS elements and the operation for the liberation of Mosul will soon begin. Fortunately, there are no immediate threats against sacred cities such as Samarra and many unsafe regions have now become significantly safe and secure. The state of security in Baghdad has also improved significantly.
* This piece was originally published in IRD Persian