Policy Brief

Stalemate in Turkey’s Relations with Iraq: Iran-Backed Militia Groups

Relations between Turkey and Iraq have gained significant dynamism in recent years. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the world, US-Iranian tensions, the economic crisis, and the fluctuations in oil prices, the trade volume between the two countries exceeded 20 billion dollars in 2020. Nevertheless, although the commercial relations between Turkey and Iraq have gained a strong basis, it is very difficult to say that the political relations in the political field have reached a similar level. That is because the main issue that Ankara has to deal with is the political competition in the country, in addition to many political and security problems that it has to face in Iraq.

The main reason for the difficult political relationship between Turkey and Iraq is that Ankara has to maintain its relations with Baghdad through two different channels. The first of these channels is the legitimate Iraqi government led by the current Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, while the other is the pro-Iranian groups that are militarily strong on the ground and are also represented by one of the most influential groups in the parliament. In particular, the competition between these two channels directly affects Turkey’s economic, political and military presence in Iraq and its relations with legitimate actors. The course of Ankara’s relations with pro-Iranian political and armed groups causes it to exert more effort in its contacts with the Baghdad government. On the other hand, the fact that the course of Turkey’s relations with Iran naturally corresponds to this equation is another factor that affects the dynamics.