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How viable is Turkey’s bid for military partnership with Iraq?

Turkey and Iraq have agreed to work on sealing a military cooperation agreement, and although regional developments dictate the solution of bilateral crises, the volatile relationship between the two neighbors calls for tempered optimism.
Turkish and Iraqi troops are pictured during a joint military exercise near the Turkish-Iraqi border in Silopi, Turkey September 26, 2017. REUTERS/Umit Bektas - RC1FB6450AB0

During Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi’s recent visit to Ankara, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan raised the prospect of a security and military cooperation accord between the two neighbors, generating some rather splashy headlines in the media. Though Turkey and Iraq have put nothing on paper yet, the mere declaration of intent to resolve problems that have kept them at loggerheads in recent years has created an air of a new beginning. Security cooperation, however, is not a new topic for them. Turkey and Iraq signed a security deal in 2008, but it has had little effect on the ground. And the stumbling blocks in bilateral ties remain tough, calling for more tempered expectations.

Speaking after his May 15 meeting with Abdul Mahdi, Erdogan stressed the importance of cooperation against the Islamic State (IS) and other groups, including the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which takes refuge in the mountains of northern Iraq and is considered a terrorist organization by Ankara. “We’ve decided that an agreement on military cooperation and trust between Turkey and Iraq will be an appropriate step,” Erdogan said at the joint press conference. He added that Turkey’s foreign and defense ministers and the intelligence chief would hold a meeting soon with their Iraqi counterparts to discuss details of the deal.

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