Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi recently announced that Iraqi intelligence forces had captured former deputy of deceased ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and also the finance chief of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, (ISIS), Sami Jasim, outside of Iraqi borders. However, it has not been announced in which country he has been captured in. The operation and the arrest of Jasim has been widely reported in the press. However, where he has been hiding until now raises suspicions. Mustafa Al-Kadhimi also described the people taking part in the operation on his social media account as “heroes”. What was this operation? Most importantly, which other country was it, and why wasn’t there any news about it?
Was this development the result of diplomacy, which has been ongoing for a while now in the region led by Turkey’s, Hulusi Akar?
Let’s go further back.
On 11 August, 2020, while an Iraqi delegation was meeting with PKK officials, an attack was carried out by TSK’s [Turkish army] drones which killed two Iraqi commanders. Iraq then criticised Turkey defining the attack as a “hostile attitude.” Iraqi officials then made statements on Turkey’s military presence and ongoing operations in their country and asked Arab allies for support.
At that time, Turkey was in a very difficult position in its military operations against the Medya Defence Zones to dismantle the PKK. Moreover, this military operation, which took place on Iraqi territory under international law, was very troubling to both Southern Kurdistan and the Iraqi people.
During the same days, Turkey’s Minister of Defence Hulusi Akar had an itinerary to go first to Baghdad and then to Erbil. However, when the Iraqi officials announced that they are canceling the visit as a protest, Akar could not go.
This attack was not an ordinary, casual attack. The shooting of two Iraqi officials in such a meeting contained messages as much as threats. After this incident, a relationship emerged between Turkey and Iraq, and the details of this relationship are still not revealed. As a matter of fact, after the attack, the meetings and traffic between Iraq and Turkey became more frequent.
Akar’s efforts on the subject never ended. The KDP, which has long been involved in Turkey’s foreign policy, was commissioned by Akar for a new move similar to the diplomacy it has made in recent years in favour of Turkey against the PKK. The main topic of this internationally planned move was Sinjar this time.
Turkey was behind the international diplomacy traffic developed by the KDP regarding Sinjar. Turkey was planning an invasion of Sinjar and supported this diplomacy with all its means. And ultimately, this initiative resulted in the Sinjar Agreement signed by Erbil and the Baghdad governments under UN supervision on October 9, 2020. The fact that the agreement was signed on the anniversary of the international conspiracy against Leader Abdullah Öcalan gave clues about the content. The agreement, with Turkey’s support, opened the door to the KDP’s invasion of Sinjar.
What was interesting, was that although an attack took place in which two of its senior officials were killed two months ago, Baghdad’s leadership was also a party to that agreement. It was clear that there were major negotiations behind this agreement in favour of Turkey’s authority in the region. Although there was also a wider network of international interests behind it, Ankara-Baghdad-Erbil all benefitted from that.
On 17 December, 2020, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi visited Turkey with a large delegation and met with Erdogan for a new round of negotiations. Although it was stated that some economic and cultural agreements were reached during this meeting, one of the topics was Kadhimi ‘s agenda based on the upcoming Iraqi elections. Of course, it was also made clear to the press that the PKK was the main topic of the meeting as well.
There was no doubt that Turkey’s plans for Southern Kurdistan (which is also important for Iraq) and the occupation operations that Turkey has been carrying out for some time in the Medya Defence Zones, constituted the basis of these negotiations. As a matter of fact, after this meeting, Iraq became more silent regarding the operations of Turkey in Iraqi territory.
Akar’s visit to Iraq and Southern Kurdistan was also planned at this meeting. As the Minister of Defence, Akar made a three-day visit that began on 18 January and started intense diplomacy. Akar, and a high-level security delegation accompanied by Turkish Chief of Staff Yasar Guler, held a detailed meeting with the Iraqi Defence Minister. Akar then met with several officials, including Iraqi President Barham Salih, Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Qasimi, and Minister of Interior Othman al-Ghanmi. Akar then moved to Erbil, where he met with Massoud Barzani, President of the Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq Nechirvan Barzani, and Prime Minister Masrur Barzani. This meeting attracted attention in the region. As a result of these meetings, consent for operations against the PKK was renewed, while support plans were also made. As a result of all this, an agreement called the “Border Security Agreement between Iraq and Turkey” was announced to the public.
Since then, new invasion operations have been on the agenda, with the heavy technical attacks by the Turkish military against the PKK. This is also supported by an open war by the KDP against the PKK. Turkey is also using chemical weapons in this war. No detailed information was given about the deal between Iraq and Turkey until the claim that the ISIS leader was captured in Turkey.
Now, if we come to today and repeat our question, what are the details of the operation resulting in the capture of Sami Jasim, former deputy of deceased ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and also the finance chief of ISIS? Most importantly, which other country was he captured in, and why wasn’t there any news about it?
Statements by some Iraqi officials and allegations on some media platforms indicate that the country is Turkey.
If it’s Turkey, the questions are multiplying. Didn’t Turkey have the power to carry out such an operation with its means and intelligence? Could this operation be a gesture at a time when the relations between Turkey and the United States are not so good?
Why was this operation given as a gift to Iraq? Most importantly, why does Turkey not say anything about its role in the operation?
Now let’s come to the most important question: Just on the eve of the Iraqi elections, this move of Turkey can be interpreted as a grand gesture for Kadhimi. This can be understood as also a gesture to the United States as the supporter behind Kadhimi. But what did Turkey get from that deal? Although it is reliable to make such a gesture for Kadhimi what did Kadhimi and Baghdad promise Turkey for that? Is it more approval for Turkey’s bloody ongoing operations in Iraqi territory?
And the worst scenario, will Turkey conduct some new special operations in the coming period in Iraqi territory and that is why Turkey made that gesture to Iraq?
It is partially understood what Turkey gave, but what it will gain is the harbinger of the new threats.