Turkey faces déjà vu in Iraq after Russia curbs trade

Turkish military forces were deployed to an area near the city of Mosul, controlled by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), earlier this month. Iraq responded by demanding that the troops leave within 48 hours, indicating that Turkey had ruffled Iraq’s feathers with the move, just weeks after a major diplomatic crisis erupted when Turkey downed a Russian jet that briefly encroached on Turkish airspace.

However, former Turkey-Iraq Business Council Chairman Ercument Aksoy doesn’t see the embargo as a lasting or a major problem for Turkish exporters. “When we send trucks to Iraq, whether it’s in Zakho, Dohuk or Arbil, the cab of the truck and the driver can be changed so the truck going to Baghdad is an Iraqi truck,” Aksoy told Today’s Zaman.

Turkish contractors and businessmen working in Iraq have also complained about not receiving money owned by the Iraqi government for various projects as Baghdad is strapped for cash, which Aksoy attributes to plummeting export figures rather than the advance of ISIL.

Turkey-Iraq Industrialists and Businessmen’s Association President Nevaf Kilic said the Baghdad embargo does not signify a crisis similar to the one currently playing out between Turkey and Russia. Kilic said trade between Turkey and Iraq has fallen by as much as 50 percent in the past year and a half, primarily due to Iraq’s own domestic security problems.

Despite the decline, Iraq remains one of Turkey’s primary export partners. However, the embargo signifies another foreign policy decision on the part of Ankara that has irked its neighbors, with the dispute between Russia and Ankara spiraling into a situation that could drain billions of dollars from the Turkish economy following a decree signed by President Vladimir Putin that includes the ban of Turkish food imports. Turkey’s main buyer of food exports is Russia.

“[Bilateral] trade should not be negatively impacted by any sort of dispute,” Kilic emphasized.

According to Foreign Economic Relations Board (DEİK) figures, nearly 1,800 Turkish firms have investments in Iraq, totaling $720 million.

Gaziantep Chamber of Commerce President Eyup Bartik also viewed the embargo as a temporary decision, adding that most of the Turkish goods imported to the area are food products.