Abstract: The possibility of a direct Turkish military intervention in Iraq illustrates how ethno-sectarian conflict is spreading ever faster across the Middle East. At the moment, a heterogeneous force made up of the Iraqi army, Peshmerga Kurdish fighters, Sunni Nineveh Guards, the International Coalition, and al-Hashd al-Sha’abi is leading the fight to defeat ISIL in Mosul, the capital of Nineveh province. The Iraqi government has reiterated that al-Hashd al-Sha’abi, which is mainly composed of Shia militias, will not participate in the battle to retake Mosul. Yet, reports show that al-Hashd al-Sha’abi forces are nonetheless taking part in military operations near Mosul.
Each of the forces participating in the battle to retake Mosul has its own agenda in the fight against ISIL. What Iran-backed Shia militias want to achieve in Nineveh is certainly different from the goals of the Turkish-backed Sunni “Nineveh Guards” or the Peshmerga Kurdish forces. Although the armies of Iran and Turkey are not directly present in Iraq, both countries have military advisors on the ground assisting Iraqi factions in the fight against ‘terrorism’. Both Turkey and Iran have political and economic interests in Iraq. This article will examine the main motives driving Turkey and Iran in their competition for influence in northern Iraq.