Update on the Tal Afar situation
Well it didn’t take long for the Tal Afar situation to escalate a tad. According to Yeni Safak a Turkish intelligence report states that the Turkmen population of Tal Afar could be massacred if the advancing Shiite Hashed al-Shaabi militias (PMU) enter the city. It is estimated that Tal Afar currently has at least 60,000 residents, the majority of which are Turkmen, who are the ethnic brethren of the Turks.
President Erdoğan is also well aware of this potentially sanguinary situation. During a Turkish Republic Day reception he said, “Tal Afar is a totally Turkmen city, with half Shia and half Sunni Muslims. We do not judge people by their religious affiliation, we regard them all as Muslims. But if Hashd al-Shaabi terrorizes the region our response would be different.” He also made it known that “Tal Afar is a very sensitive issue for us. We definitely do not regard it [the militia’s involvement] positively in Tal Afar and Sinjar. I already told this to officials clearly.”
Beyond verbally expressing his concerns, Erdoğan has also ordered the deployment of troops to the Turkish border town of Silopi, which is about 170 kilometers by road away from Tal Afar. These troops are lying in wait in case the situation in Tal Afar deteriorates and necessitates a Turkish military response.
Turkish concerns that the safety of the Turkmens in Tal Afar, may simply be a pretext to justify a military intervention into the western portion of Mosul province. However, it is a real possibility that the Shiite PMU could take violent vengeance on the Sunni population of Tal Afar and the surrounding regions, as they have been accused of committing brutal atrocities in other Sunni regions of Iraq. Either way, whether Turkish fears are valid or not, it is beginning to look more and more likely that Turkey will further escalate its military intervention in northern Iraq, bringing it into direct confrontation with Shiite militias, the Iraqi government, and possibly Iran.