Fears battle for Mosul could open new front in wider Sunni-Shia conflict

Simon Tisdall writes: The risk that military operations to expel Islamic State terrorists from Mosul in northern Iraq could morph into a new frontline in the wider conflict between the Sunni and Shia branches of Islam has intensified with Turkey’s disputed entry into the fray.

Binali Yıldırım, Turkey’s prime minister, confirmed reports that Turkish troops based in the contested Bashiqa area outside Mosul were firing on Isis positions with artillery, tanks and howitzers. Yıldırım said the bombardment followed a request from Kurdish peshmerga forces.

But Iraq’s joint operations command flatly denied Turkish involvement. “[Iraq] denies Turkish participation of any kind in operations for the liberation of Nineveh,” it said on Monday, referring to the Iraqi province of which Mosul is the capital.

Iraq’s obfuscation reflects deep anxiety in Baghdad about predominantly Sunni Muslim Turkey’s intentions. The Shia-led, Iranian-backed government of Iraq’s prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, is under pressure not to tolerate the presence on Iraqi soil of troops from a country alleged to have previously aided the Sunni jihadis of Isis. [Continue reading…]

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