Mosul: The Predicament of a Regional and Historical Tug

Translated by Captain Ahab


Written by Ahmad Dahshan


The map for the National Turkish concord of the year 1920 was republished by the Dirilispostasi newspaper that is known for its allegiance to Erdogan


We must begin by going back to the 16th century, where two regional superpowers fought over Mosul; the Ottomans and the Safavids, and then between Atatturk’s Turkey and Great Britain right after World War I, and what connects it to Arabistan or what is known as Al-Ahwaz, which is a predominantly Arab region in Iran, with the current fight over Mosul.

The Safavids took control of Baghdad and Mosul in 1508. Mosul served as a first line of defense, protecting the Safavids from any attempts by the Ottomans to expand on their behalf. In 1534 the 10th Ottoman Sultan Sulaiman Al-Qanouni reestablished Ottoman dominion over Mosul and Baghdad.

Iraq remained a theatre for conflicts between the Persians and the Turks for several decades, Mosul for it’s geographical position and Baghdad for it’s historical and symbolic importance remained the epicenter of the fight, the Persians tried more than once to establish control over Mosul, the last attempt was during the reign of Nader Shah who sieged the city for 40 days in 1733 but eventually failed.

Several long wars exhausted both the Persians and the Turks, neither of them was able to resolutely beat the other , and so on May 1639 several peace treatises were signed, most importantly the Zuhab treaty, in which the Persian Safavid empire acknowledged the sovereignty of the Turkish Ottoman empire over Iraq, Mosul and Baghdad. Renewed efforts by the Persians were initiated during the dynasty of the Afsharites, who succeeded the Safavids, and also during the reign of the Qajar dynasty, to force the Ottomans to admit to Persian sovereignty over several neighboring territories, and also to get the Ottomans to recognize the Twelver Shi’as as a legitimate fifth school in Muslim jurisprudence. An agreement was finally reached that would end disputes on May 1847 – the second Erzurum treatise was signed in which the Ottomans acknowledged the sovereignty of the region of Arabistan “Al-Ahwaz” to the Persian Qajar state. In exchange the Persians recognized Turkish/Ottoman sovereignty over Mosul and agreed to cease any attempts of reunification.

Now that both sides were assured that neither would attempt to violate the treaty, the Qajar dynasty started to transfer large numbers of Persian and other ethnic groups and tribes to Arabistan a.k.a Al-Ahwaz, to change the demographics so that it is no longer an exclusively Arab region as it once was, and the Turks started similar campaigns to change the demographics in Mosul. They sent many Turkish families and tribes, today they are known as Turkmen. By the way Osama Al-Nujaifi the former vice president of Iraq, and his brother Athil Al-Nujaifi the Mayor of Nineveh, which under his rule Mosul fell under ISIS control in quite a dramatic and suspicious way have Turkish roots. The Al-Nujaifi family were a great Turkish landowning family that was always at odds with all the political regimes that ruled Iraq – the Royal, Republican, and Ba’ath regimes. This is due to their pro-Turkey stance, and their efforts to get Mosul absorbed into Turkey, their grandfather had requested several times to hold a referendum under the supervision of the UN to let Mosul join Turkey.

The Ottoman empire fell, and in its stead a Republic had been established by Mustafa Kamal Ataturk, who still held that Mosul should be in Turkey according to the Turkish National assembly declaration that established the Republic, that was constituted of six declarations that had been made by the Ottoman parliament in it’s final year of assembly on 28 January 1920, and it’s clauses were published in February 12 of the same year. Ataturk delivered a speech afterwards saying:

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“Our borders include the Southern parts of Liwa’ Iskenderun from Antakia, Jarablus, the railway station, down until reaching souther Aleppo, then East including Deir Ezzour, Mosul, Kirkouk and Al-Sulaimaniyyah”. A massive demonstration in Turkey and abroad broke out in front of the building where the Treaty of Lausanne had been ratified, insisting that Mosul is Turkish.

The Turkish republic refused to budge on it’s position regarding Mosul in Lausanne, where the borders of the new republic and it’s past colonies, were resolved on 24th of July 1923. Ataturk insisted that Mosul be included, stating that it’s inhabitants were ethnically and culturally Turkish. Besides his own ambitions to control it’s rich oil fields, a disagreement arose between the Hashemite Kingdom of Iraq, which was still under the British mandate, and the Turkish republic on Mosul which resulted in both sides signing the Ankara treaty of 1926, after the League of Nations had already voted for Mosul to be included in Iraq, and under British pressure the Turks seceded their position but with conditions, that 10% of oil revenues for the first 25 years be paid to Turkey, and two other clauses that the Turks allege are in the agreement:

1. In case of any change in Iraq’s border, Turkey has the right to retake Mosul.

2. Turkey has the right to intervene to protect it’s borders, or the Turkmen minority in case they were in danger.

There is a dispute whether these clauses are there in the agreement.

The Turkish parliamentarians and the general Turkish public were infuriated by the republic’s “surrender” of Mosul, having already surrendered what they see as their inherent rights in Syria, that were mentioned in the Turkish National assembly, and Ataturk had supported back then, now however he was trying to contain the anger of parliament and populace saying to them: one day we will reclaim the Turkish nation’s “historic rights” in Iraq and Syria, we will succeed when we are strong enough.

Erdogan is betting on such a division and atomization of Iraq to happen, to reclaim Mosul, Aleppo, and Deir Ezzour, and is calling day and night for his forces to participate in the battle for Mosul. He insists on the presence of his forces in Ba’shiqa and the North of Syria, by the way the ambition to seize territories outside Turkey is not an exclusively secular or Islamist tendency, all are bound by the sense of Turkish nationalism, and all Turks except the Kurds dream of a return to the old glory days of the Turks, the differences are down to tactics.

Here we must remind Arab fools of the real nature and role of Turkey, those delusional Arabs who think that Turkey will stand in the face of Iran’s expanding influence in the region. We remind them that all the secularist Ataturk followers from the Turkish leadership have reiterated that Mosul and the Syrian North belong to the Turkish state, the clearest of them of all who stated this was the 8th Turkish President Turgut Özal during the second Gulf war in January 1991 he said that Turkey is concerned about the fate of the “Iraqi peoples” note: not People – in case Iraq is dismantled. The Turkish media at the time published a map known as the “Özal map”, in which Iraq is divided into three regions, an “Arab state”, “Turkish state”, and a “Kurdish state”, the latter two would be under the direct control of Turkey, more than that he spoke about a military operation to occupy the North of Iraq and had proposed it to the Prime minister at the time Yildirim Akbulut and the joint chief of staff General Necip Torumtay, the latter agreed to the plan, the former opposed it who is to this day chastised by the AKP for squandering such an opportunity, that is to reclaim Turkey’s “historic right” in Iraq, and such an opportunity will not be squandered again.

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However, the 9th Turkish President Suleyman Demirel, was the clearest with his nations intentions and claims, stating unequivocally on the “Restoration” of Mosul to Turkey On May 1, 1995 having concluded operation “steel” in Northern Iraqi, who’s aim was to track elements of the PKK, he said: “the Turkish/Iraqi border must be redrawn, for several reasons foremost among them is Turkey’s security, also we must never forget that Mosul is part of Turkey”.

Erdogan’s Turkey, as well as Iran, recognize the weakness of the Arabs, after the gradual withdrawal of Egypt from the region having signed the “Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty” and becoming a mere footnote to American policy, and the fact that Egypt no longer has a national project that it can lead the Arab world with, since Egypt is not there to lead the rest of the Arab regimes who are visionless, and lack any historic legitimacy and merely interact with whatever is happening in the region with an eye on serving and pandering the US, which in turn ensures the longevity of these regimes.

Erdogan is relying on the Saudi/Iranian conflict, since Saudi Arabia is governed by a vindictive spirit rather than a well thought out foreign policy as they try to reclaim a sphere of influence, and so as Saudi Arabia pushes back Iran in Syria and Iraq. This results in Erdogan picking up all the fruits and lending him further Turkish National support. Neither the People’s Republican party founded by Ataturk nor the National movement party which was founded by the ex-military officer Alb Arsalan Turkich in 1969, which is now headed by Dult Bahtashli, who is an Ultra-Nationalist, can stand in Erdogan’s way. The only opposition offered is through the People’s Democratic Kurdish party, which makes it very difficult for anyone to oppose Erdogan and his project, which is to restore the Turkish people’s greatness.

The vision of Erdogan for Turkey at home is to ignite the nationalist fervor in order to increase the support for any military intervention in Syria and Iraq to annex northern Syria, and Mosul, and the establishment of a presidential system of government that would require changes to the present constitution moving along the lines of the American system where the federal system is to be applied, after Turkey’s expansion and the annexation of foreign lands. And this federal system gives the central authority represented in the institution of the presidency powers and greater influence, and also to a parliament that would be consisted of two chambers of deputies and a Senate, which would ensure adequate representation for the Alawites, Shiites and other religious minorities. This arrangement would also require a political settlement with the Kurds in Turkey  -through direct negotiation with PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan Kurdish presence will be balanced by the Arab presence that would be loyal to Erdogan. This arrangement guarantees for the Kurds in Iraq, Syria, and Turkey a geographical continuance that would enable communication with the outside world via Turkey, ending future aspirations in an independent state, and ending at the same time their problem once and for all as seen by Erdogan, and this is the only way through which Erdogan can succeed. He will seek on the international level to swap with Russia and Iran and try a balancing act with the US as well. He has already and will continue to benefit from Saudi Arabia’s vindictive urge to topple the Syrian regime just to get even with Iran.

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Erdogan’s ambitions face serious and several major obstacles and challenges that he cannot  ignore, but he is tirelessly trying to achieve these ambitions and using all  the means open to him.

We can from the foregoing understand the apparent disparity and differences between Cairo and Riyadh’s position in the matter and how to deal with crises in the region; Cairo sees Turkey’s ambition far more dangerous than Iran’s, not only because Erdogan belongs to the ideology of the “Muslim Brotherhood,” as some might imagine. The Muslim Brotherhood for Erdogan is just a vehicle it is no more the man in his rhetoric and essence a Turkish nationalist to the core, and he is simply using the Muslim Brotherhood as the largest Sunni “Islamic group” in the Arab region to market for his project, which can not find an echo in the Arab world solely on Pro-Turkmen minority rhetoric. It is Turkish nationalism inside Turkey and “Pan Islamism” when addressing the Arab world to attract followers around him just as Iran utilizes its “resistance” in order to amass support in the Arab world.

Cairo believes that the state of sectarian polarization that Riyadh contributed to has given Erdogan the justification and popular support for Turkey to be seen as a “Sunni”  power, given that nationalism as an identity has receded and was replaced by a sectarian identity, coupled with a historical legitimacy possessed by Turkey, which ruled the region for nearly 500 years. While Iran does not have this historical legitimacy, since it hasn’t ruled the region once for the past 1400 years, and the last time they stepped outside their borders was during the reign of Nader Shah, the founder of the Afhariah  dynasty who died in 1747. Also, Iran does not have the ideological status or social incubator in the region to expand beyond the Shi’ite minority. It is also not in their interest for the Shia Arabs to seperate which would only result in the loss of the Western “Sunni” regions and therefore cut any access road to Syria and from there to Lebanon and the Mediterranean through. So here is where Egyptian and Iranian interests meet, despite all the differences in ideology and religious schools between both, the two sides agree in Iraq and Syria, while the issue of Iranian influence can be dealt with later once the unity of the major countries and the institution of the Arabs are safe, and then initiate a political dialogue with Iran or perhaps if need be to face them, and this is what explains why Iran emphasizes the need for Egypt’s presence in any conference about Syria, and the case of temporary estrangement between Riyadh and Cairo is not due to any Egyptian – Iranian convergence or Egyptian re-drafting of the map of regional alliances, as some might think!

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