Iraq-Turkey Border Confusion: Who's In Charge Here?

By Mahmut Bozarslan for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Tensions were already high last week between Iraq's central government in Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Erbil. The stress spiked Oct. 31 near the Iraq-Turkey border when sirens began wailing and a military convoy escorted by tanks was seen moving toward the border. People feared Turkey's army was entering Iraq.

The convoy turned out to be a mixed Iraqi-Turkish one. Iraqis who had come to Turkey to participate in exercises were on their way home.

After the KRG held an independence referendum Sept. 25 and Baghdad responded Oct. 15 by sending in troops to retake disputed territory and squelch any talk of secession, many people wondered what would happen on the Turkey-Iraq border.

Habur crossing (pictured), known as Ibrahim Khalil border gate on the Kurdish side, is the sole crossing between the two countries. After taking over Kirkuk, Baghdad then decided it wanted control of the crossing. Iraqi soldiers who had flown to Turkey for the exercises were now going back by road for the first time in 26 years.

When the Iraqi army had abandoned that crossing in 1991, nobody had cell phones to report it. It took the world many days to learn that the Iraqis had handed over northern Iraq to the Kurds. But as Iraqi soldiers recently approached the border crossing, the entire world knew about it.

Some Turkish media ran false headlines saying the crossing had been handed over to Baghdad. The Turkish side was pleased with this development, especially when social media began spreading photos of Iraqi soldiers accompanied by senior officers from both sides at the border crossing. Nobody seemed to notice that there was not a single photo or report of a customs administration office being handed over.

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