NATO holds emergency meeting on Iraq crisis at Turkey's request
By Ian Davis, NATO Watch
NATO ambassadors in Brussels held an emergency meeting at Turkey's request today on the growing crisis in northern Iraq, after militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) kidnapped 80 Turkish citizens, including Turkish consular staff.
"Turkey briefed the other allies on the situation in (the Iraqi city of) Mosul and the hostage-taking of Turkish citizens, including the consul general," a NATO official is reported as saying. The official added that the meeting was not held under Article 4 of NATO's founding treaty, which permits a member of the 28-nation alliance to ask for consultations with other allies when it feels its security is threatened.
NATO has not received any request for help from the Iraqi authorities related to the latest developments in Mosul, the official said.
Turkey's Foreign Ministry has confirmed 49 Turkish consulate staff members, including the consul-general and family members, have been abducted by ISIL militants in Iraq's second largest city, Mosul. On Tuesday, ISIL took control of the city and seized 31 Turkish truck drivers who were transporting fuel to a thermal power plant.
Speaking as he prepared to leave a UN meeting on counter-terrorism to return to Ankara, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the Iraqi government was responsible for the security of the consulate staff. "No one should dare test Turkey's power," he said, adding that Turkey would not allow any harming of its nationals to go unpunished.
"Right now we're engaged in calm crisis management, considering our citizens' security," Davutoglu said in New York after cancelling meetings at the UN to return to Turkey. "This should not be misunderstood. Any harm to our citizens and staff would be met with the harshest retaliation," he told reporters in comments broadcast on Turkish television.
More than 300,000 residents have fled Mosul, where security forces and militants have been clashing since Friday.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Tuesday that Iraq had been placed on "maximum alert" and called on the Iraqi parliament to declare a national state of emergency. Today, news reports suggest that the Islamist insurgents have seized four cities where they pillaged military bases and banks.
As Simon Tisdall writes "this latest collapse reflects badly on the Obama administration, which signed a series of security pacts, including a strategic framework agreement, with the Maliki government when US troops finally left in 2011. The idea (in a worrying echo of Afghanistan) was that Washington would help Baghdad to build an effective, well-trained national army".
The US has also been supplying the Iraqi government with advanced weapons — shipments have included delivery of 300 Hellfire missiles, millions of rounds of small arms fire, thousands of rounds of tank ammunition, helicopter-fired rockets, machine guns, grenades, sniper rifles, M16 and M4 rifles— many of which may well fall into the hands of the militants.