Re­gional Pow­ers and Er­bil Ref­er­en­dum

Tehran Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Sadeq maleki Ira­nian Po­lit­i­cal An­a­lyst

Bagh­dad, Ankara, Tehran and Da­m­as­cus were the strong­est op­po­nents of the ref­er­en­dum and the in­de­pen­dence of north­ern Iraq, but this is not the whole story. While an­a­lyz­ing and mak­ing de­ci­sions about the ref­er­en­dum, one should pay spe­cial at­ten­tion to the dif­fer­ent views of the cen­ters of power on the is­sue of the Kurds, and re­frain from mak­ing hasty eval­u­a­tion and mis­cal­cu­la­tions.

Although the ref­er­en­dum and its domino ef­fect is con­sid­ered a threat for all coun­tries with a Kur­dish pop­u­la­tion, this threat is im­me­di­ate for Bagh­dad, close to Turkey and rel­a­tively far from Iran. Not­with­stand­ing the fact that coun­tries with a Kur­dish pop­u­la­tion have de­clared a com­mon stance in op­po­si­tion to the ref­er­en­dum, their ap­plied poli­cies are not con­sis­tent with each other at all an­gles, and even in the fore­go­ing stages, some of those poli­cies can be­come con­trary to the oth­ers.

KRG Ref­er­en­dum and Bagh­dad The geopol­i­tics of Iraq have al­ways been trou­ble­some for this his­toric land. Eth­nic and re­li­gious het­ero­gene­ity, and the re­sult­ing do­mes­tic com­pe­ti­tions and for­eign provo­ca­tions have al­ways led to cri­sis and in­sta­bil­ity, es­pe­cially in times of weak­ness for the cen­tral gov­ern­ment. Although Iraqis are still far from be­com­ing true Iraqis, the fight against ISIL and the threat of par­ti­tion­ing can cre­ate unity and sol­i­dar­ity among them. While Bagh­dad is fight­ing ISIL, Er­bil took ad­van­tage of the sit­u­a­tion to hold a ref­er­en­dum. How­ever, the ref­er­en­dum is not the de­ter­min­ing fac­tor in Iraq’s equa­tions which can be bet­ter de­ter­mined by war. The mea­sure by the KRG to hold the ref­er­en­dum seems to be help­ing Iraqi Shias and Sun­nis to move past their ri­valry which will in turn make the fu­ture even more chal­leng­ing for Barzani.

KRG Ref­er­en­dum and Ankara

In the wake of Sad­dam’s fall, Ankara saw it­self as the loser, and Shias and Iran the win­ners of the de­vel­op­ments. From Turkey’s point of view, Bagh­dad was the en­emy for rul­ing over Shias and Er­bil was pro­moted to the sta­tus of a strate­gic ally. Af­fected by its re­li­gious per­spec­tive to­ward Iraq, Turkey en­tered the stage not from the gate of Bagh­dad, but from Er­bil. Through ex­pand­ing re­la­tions with KRG and or­ga­niz­ing Sun­nis, Turkey be­came one of the main causes of the emer­gence of ISIL and the hold­ing of the ref­er­en­dum. Af­ter a tense pe­riod in Ankara’s re­la­tions with Bagh­dad and Tehran, the threats of ISIL and the ref­er­en­dum for Turkey forced Ankara to make a po­lit­i­cal turn from its pre­vi­ous po­si­tions. Of course, some an­a­lysts are of the opin­ion that Turkey has achieved a sig­nif­i­cant part of its un­fa­vor­able ob­jec­tives in Iraq and the re­gion and is now dis­tanc­ing it­self tac­ti­cally and pe­ri­od­i­cally from its own poli­cies, and there­fore one should not con­sider the na­ture of Ankara’s op­po­si­tion to ISIL and the ref­er­en­dum in the same light as the op­po­si­tion of Tehran and Bagh­dad to­ward th­ese two fac­tors. Re­gard­ing the ref­er­en­dum, while the high­est-rank­ing Ira­nian of­fi­cials have called the ref­er­en­dum an act of trea­son against the re­gion, the Turk­ish Econ­omy Min­is­ter, de­spite Er­do­gan’s op­pos­ing stance to­ward the ref­er­en­dum, im­posed against Er­bil now or in fu­ture. In­side Turkey, re­gard­less of the sup­port of the pro-Kur­dish Peo­ple’s Demo­cratic Party (HDP) and its im­pris­oned leader Se­la­hat­tin Demir­tas, a large num­ber of rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the Jus­tice and De­vel­op­ment Party (AK Parti), in­clud­ing the party’s in­flu­en­tial mem­ber Galip En­sar­i­oglu from Di­yarbakir, have an­nounced that they are in fa­vor of the ref­er­en­dum and con­sider KRG as the strate­gic ally of Turkey. In ad­di­tion to th­ese stances, Devlet Bahçeli, leader of Er­do­gan’s Na­tion­al­ist Move­ment Party as well as some other close al­lies to the Turk­ish pres­i­dent, have said that in the event of KRG sep­a­ra­tion, Mo­sul, Kirkuk and Su­lay­maniyah must be an­nexed to Turkey – a po­si­tion that has fur­ther in­ten­si­fied the am­bi­gu­i­ties of Turk­ish poli­cies in the re­gion. Of course, Er­do­gan, too, had noted the an­nex­a­tion of Mo­sul and Kirkuk to Turkey un­der the Na­tional Oath a while ago. Rais­ing such is­sues, from a cer­tain stand­point, can also be a mes­sage to all in­ter­ested par­ties for ob­tain­ing con­ces­sions and ad­just­ing the equa­tions in one’s own fa­vors.

Tak­ing Er­bil un­der Ankara’s pro­tec­tion, re­plac­ing the $10 bil­lion deficit caused by Tehran and Bagh­dad sanc­tions against Er­bil, in­creas­ing the role of Sun­nis in power, se­cur­ing the tran­sit of en­ergy pipe­lines through Turkey’s routes, and help­ing to turn the coun­try into an en­ergy hub, could be among Turkey’s con­sid­er­a­tions in the KRG ref­er­en­dum cri­sis. Trust in coun­tries is the re­sult of a change in be­hav­ior re­sult­ing from a change in the mind­set. Those who have come to place trust in the change in Ankara’s strate­gic be­hav­ior to­wards the de­vel­op­ments in the re­gion should take into con­sid­er­a­tion the state­ments made by For­eign Min­is­ter Mevlüt Çavu­soglu and Econ­omy Min­is­ter Ni­hat Zey­bekci be­fore Pres­i­dent Er­do­gan’s visit to Tehran. Trust-build­ing in the realm of pol­i­tics, es­pe­cially in the Mid­dle East, is a lengthy and highly dif­fi­cult process. Nev­er­the­less, Tehran and Bagh­dad, while wel­com­ing Ankara’s new ap­proach to re­gional de­vel­op­ments, and in par­tic­u­lar to­ward the Iraqi Kur­dis­tan re­gion, should con­sider al­ter­na­tive strate­gies for the mul­ti­lat­eral and top­i­cal poli­cies of Turkey.

KRG Ref­er­en­dum and Tehran

While Tehran was more res­o­lute than Bagh­dad and Ankara in declar­ing its op­po­si­tion to Er­bil’s ref­er­en­dum, some Kur­dish re­gions of Iran ex­pressed joy over the re­sults. This sense of joy, while in part could be at­trib­uted to the nos­tal­gia of a Kur­dish ide­al­ism, needs to be pon­dered deeply about from an­other per­spec­tive. Be­yond a mil­i­tary and se­cu­rity out­look, an at­tempt to re­form some of the so­cio-po­lit­i­cal ap­proaches to the Kurds can serve as a guide for creat­ing more con­ver­gence and unity among the Ira­nian Kurds on the thresh­old of di­ver­gence among Iraqi Kurds. If prompted to have a pref­er­ence be­tween Turkey and Iraq, the Kurds would pre­fer Iran, but the aim of de­vel­op­ments is not about pref­er­ence. If the ref­er­en­dum is not can­celed and Er­bil is not placed un­der Bagh­dad’s cir­cle of power, the ref­er­en­dum then should be con­sid­ered the start­ing point of the Sykes–Pi­cot Agree­ment. The only fac­tor that can keep Iraq safe from be­ing par­ti­tioned is the full and trusted co­or­di­na­tion among Tehran, Ankara and Bagh­dad.

KRG Ref­er­en­dum and Er­bil

De­spite the risks, Er­bil held the ref­er­en­dum. Barzani stepped in­side the bat­tle­field armed with an ide­al­ism that even Iraqi Pres­i­dent Fuad Ma­sum could not say no to. From Barzani’s per­spec­tive, the ceil­ing limit was KRG’s ref­er­en­dum on in­de­pen­dence, and the bot­tom limit was to take con­ces­sion from Bagh­dad and to some ex­tent from Ankara and Tehran. Op­pos­ing re­sponses and po­si­tions of coun­tries to the ref­er­en­dum, in prac­tice can be a fac­tor in dis­turb­ing Barzani’s cal­cu­la­tions and bring about a bloody fu­ture for the Kur­dis­tan re­gion and the Mid­dle East.

It seems that in the eyes of the West, es­pe­cially the United States, play­ing with the tool of par­ti­tion­ing, more than be­ing a strat­egy, is a tac­ti­cal mea­sure for gain­ing con­ces­sions and reg­u­lat­ing the be­hav­ior of coun­tries such as Iraq. In this re­gard, the West uses the re­li­gious and eth­nic el­e­ment in the form of ISIL and Kurds to gain con­ces­sions, cre­ate a de­struc­tive com­pe­ti­tion, and weaken the coun­tries of the re­gion, es­pe­cially those in the Re­sis­tance Front. The cen­ters of power in the Mid­dle East, es­pe­cially Iran and Turkey, must un­der­stand that stay­ing clear from fall­ing into the com­pet­i­tive games of the United States is the great­est mis­sion of all coun­tries and lead­ers in the re­gion. The only way for the Mid­dle East to es­cape from the cri­sis and, for Iraq to stay away from be­ing par­ti­tioned, is to end the geopo­lit­i­cal ri­val­ries in the re­gion, es­pe­cially be­tween Iran and Turkey, based on mu­tual trust and aimed at reach­ing a geostrate­gic al­liance at an ideal point.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Iran

© PressReader. All rights reserved.