Iran, Turkey fight over Tal Afar

By Mustafa Saadoun for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News. 

“Tal Afar will be the cemetery of Turkish soldiers should Turkey attempt to take part in the battle,” Hadi al-Amiri, the head of the Badr Organization and a leader in the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), said Nov. 9 in a message to Iraq’s northern neighbor, in the event Turkish troops deployed in the Bashiqa camp attempt to take part in the liberation of Tal Afar.

On Nov. 16, Tal Afar was liberated. It is a strategic area for the PMU, as it gives them access to the Syrian border and enables them to cut off the routes for Islamic State (IS) fighters to escape to Syria. Following the liberation of Tal Afar, Amiri said that the Syrian president has invited the PMU to fight the Syrian opposition inside Syrian territory.

Amiri's statement against Turkey, which is close to Iran, came in response to the earlier statements of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in regard to the city of Tal Afar, whereby he warned the PMU not to commit any “violations” against the city’s civilians.

During a press statement Oct. 29, Erdogan said, “The Turkmen city of Tal Afar is a matter of great sensitivity to us. Should the PMU commit terrorist acts in the city, our response will be different.”

Erdogan added that he received information that confirms the PMU terrorist acts in the city, without giving further details on the number of reinforcements or how Turkey’s retaliation will be different.

In the same vein, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi responded to the Turkish president Nov. 1, saying that the Iraqi government is keener than any other party on Tal Afar. Abadi did not hide his concerns about any Turkish threats, stating, “The threat of a Turkish intervention still exists.”

Tal Afar is a district administratively affiliated with Ninevah governorate and located 63 kilometers (39 miles) west of Mosul, close to the Iraqi-Syrian border, with an area of approximately 28 square kilometers (11 square miles).

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