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ByMary M. Ward

Sep 1, 2021

Ankara-Baghdad fight against Daesh could intensify following Iraqi elections (experts)

ANKARA: Turkish and Iraqi counterterrorism operations aimed at eliminating Daesh from the region could intensify following parliamentary elections and the recent capture of one of the group’s main leaders, experts have said.

A recent joint intelligence operation between the two countries in northwestern Syria led to the arrest by Iraqi security forces of Sami Jasim, deputy to the late former Daesh chief Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.

Of Iraqi nationality, Jasim was also known to be a close associate of the current leader of the terrorist group, Abu Ibrahim Al-Hashimi Al-Quraishi. Turkey’s influence in northwestern Syria, where it has had troop observation points for years, and close ties to rebels in the region contributed to the success of the operation.

It is believed that a number of Iraqi Daesh operatives hiding in the region have inspired affiliates of groups in other war-torn countries like Afghanistan.

Analysts now believe that closer cooperation between Ankara and Baghdad would not only help eradicate the last vestiges of Daesh, but also establish a new layer of trust between Turkey and the United States on counterterrorism issues. .

America had offered $ 5 million to obtain information on Jasim and considered him “an instrument in the management of the finances of the terrorist operations of the Islamic State (Daesh)”.

Last year, Turkey’s Financial Crimes Investigation Council signed an agreement with its Iraqi counterpart against money laundering and terrorist financing.

Goktug Sonmez, director of security studies at Ankara-based think-tank Orsam, said Turkey’s policy in Iraq has focused primarily on combating terrorism.

He told Arab News: “Initially this objective was limited to the fight against the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party), then it was extended to the anti-terrorism efforts against Daesh, with Turkey becoming an integral part. of the global coalition to fight against it.

Parliamentary elections were held in Iraq on October 10, and experts believe the election outcome will have a direct impact on counterterrorism efforts based on regional alliances.

Sonmez said: “Pro-Iranian Shiite segments have become the biggest losers in the elections, while the Kurdistan Democratic Party has dramatically increased its share of the vote. After the election results, Ankara could step up its anti-Daesh operations with the Iraqi central government.

“With Iranian influence on Iraq diminishing, such cooperation between the two countries can also contribute to Washington’s efforts to maintain its alliance ties with the region.

“The Gulf countries and Turkey can help the government in Baghdad in this process by using the security card as a means of lasting cooperation.

“From the point of view of military assistance and security collaboration, I expect Turkey to provide Iraq with more new military equipment to better identify the hiding places of Daesh,” he said. -he adds.

In August, Iraqi Defense Minister Juma Anad Saadoun announced that his country was considering purchasing Turkish drones, T129 tactical reconnaissance and attack helicopters, and electronic military hardware.

“Turkey has so far compiled a very comprehensive list of tens of thousands of foreign fighters who are or may be linked to Daesh. After the recent elections, Turkey and Iraq can deepen their counterterrorism efforts based on Ankara’s solid documentation of the Daesh network in its neighborhood, ”Sonmez said.

Turkey recently arrested several Daesh operatives on its home soil. In mid-September, security forces arrested three people in southern Turkey suspected of links to Daesh and the PKK, as well as several documents and digital media.

“Turkey’s domestic operations against Daesh go hand in hand with its cross-border operations. The data that Turkish security officials obtained and the networks that were uncovered with such operations helped the authorities to reveal the foreign contacts of the jihadists in countries in the region, ”added Sonmez.

Between 2014 and this year, Turkey carried out more than 5,855 operations against Daesh, capturing and arresting more than 1,200 members of the group.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization and police have arrested eight people, including two Iranian spies, for an attempted kidnapping of a former Iranian soldier, state agency Anadolu reported on Wednesday.

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