“It can be expected that a significant part of NATO forces might be shifted to Bashur (South Kurdistan) territories. It has already been reported that the US army aims to establish three new bases near Hewlêr, Silêmanî and Halabja”, writes Meral Çiçek for Yeni Özgür Politika.
The main agenda of the NATO Defence Ministers meeting held last week was Iraq as well as Afghanistan. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) decided to increase the number of its soldiers in Iraq from 500 to 4000. It was stated that the aim for increasing the number of soldiers eightfold was “to support the Iraqi forces in their fight against terrorism and to prevent ISIS from rising again”.
Although NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg states that this decision was taken at the request of the Iraqi government, it is clear that the USA is behind it. Following this path, NATO will gradually take the place of the International Coalition in Iraq. Remember, in 2011, the International Coalition’s presence served to enable the USA to withdraw from Iraq at that time. This time, we are faced with a similar situation since the USA decreased the number of its soldiers here from 5200 to 2500 last year.
The reason for the decrease in the number of US soldiers and the shifting of the control of some of the bases used by the coalition to Baghdad was to act as a counter to Iran since the Al Kadhimi government was under both direct and indirect pressure on this issue. With this move, the US aimed to reduce the pressure on Al Kadhimi, but it also reorganised its military base in line with the ongoing military situation in the region. It would be reasonable to evaluate the decision to increase NATO’s presence in the region and expand of its mission in this context.
Stoltenberg’s statements that “preparations on this issue have been carried out for one year” also confirm this. So, the US decision to reduce the number of its soldiers but to increase those of NATO was actually taken together.
How should one evaluate this decision?
The capitalist hegemony led by the USA actually functions in various different ways in Iraq. If you notice, among the Western powers, the most active party in the diplomatic field is the UN’s Iraq representative. He even travelled to Iran recently which actually reveals the mission assigned to him. Regarding the conflict between the US and Iran, Washington is less and less directly pursuing its interests in its own name but indirectly under the name of the UN.
The Secretary General of NATO stated that they will be more engaged in the issues regarding the zones outside Baghdad as well. Therefore, it can be expected that a significant part of NATO forces might be shifted to Bashur (South Kurdistan) territories. It has already been reported that the US army aims to establish three new bases near Hewlêr, Silêmanî and Halabja, but the establishment of new US bases in Bashur indicates a challenge for the the Federal Kurdistan Administration. Besides, the already existing bases have already been causing problems.
Just a few days ago, Hewlêr Airport and its surroundings were targeted by missile attacks just because the US base was located there. Afterwards, a missile attack was launched against the Municipal Military Base, where NATO forces are located in Saladin whilst the US embassy in Baghdad was targeted the previous night. The number of such assaults has been increasing recently.
Another point is Turkey’s NATO membership. As the presence of NATO in the region begins to become more dominant, it is likely that the number of Turkish soldiers in the country will increase. An article with the title “What is NATO doing in Iraq?” by the retired ambassador Fatih Ceylan was published on the website of Yetkin Report, owned by Murat Yetkin. Ceylan served as the Permanent Representative of NATO on behalf of the TC (Turkish Republic) between 2013-2018. The article makes the following recommendations to the Justice and Development Party (AKP)and the Nationalist Party coalition in Turkey:
– The presence of Turkish personnel in NATO should be increased in an effort to include more Turkish personnel in key units in such a manner that the relations with the Iraqi government and some local powers are not harmed.
– In order to adopt the agreements with Iraq to the new conjucture, relations with Baghdad should be tightened.
– Intelligence and counter-intelligence activities should be undertaken.
– NATO’s relations with Russia, which has been getting tense since 2014, should be closely monitored with regard to its course in Iraq.
– Counter moves from Iran should be foreseen.
Ceylan concludes his article with the following remarks on the Kurdish Freedom Movement: “New challenges await in Iraq for Turkey, which took on the NATO Response Force/Very High Readiness Joint Task Force in 2021. Therefore, it is a must to see that new links might be added to the chain of our bilateral issues with Iraq, especially regarding the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), in a multilateral framework and the arithmetic of these possible relations should be planned accordingly”.
What is understood from this is that the TC will try to benefit from the decision of NATO to increase its presence in Iraq. It will view it as an opportunity for the genocidal war against Kurds and for its Neo-Ottoman plans. Considering all preparations and plans put forward by the global and regional powers, the atmosphere of peace, which Iraqi peoples have been longing for, appears the be further beyond the horizon. I am afraid that those who expect the dust to settle in the country are wrong.