Turk­ish-kur­dish re­la­tions and the mis­guided con­cerns of the US

The Kurdish Globe - - FRONT PAGE - By Faisal Dabbagh

not to weaken its al­ready frail in­flu­ence on Bagh­dad.

Kurds placed great hopes on the U.S. es­pe­cially in help­ing re­solve numer­ous is­sues they have with Bagh­dad. How­ever, numer­ous prom­ises were not met with prac­ti­cal in­tent, and even the U.S. in­ten­si­fied ten­sions, es­pe­cially on the oil and gas is­sue by de­mand­ing the re­gion to ex­port its oil via cen­tral government pipe­lines while Bagh­dad was re­fus­ing to pay oil com­pa­nies’ fees.

The U.S. goal in all this is to max­i­mize oil ex­ports from Iraq and Kur­dis­tan, and to push oil prices down in the world mar­kets, ben­e­fit­ting the Amer­i­can econ­omy as well as global mar­kets.

Ma­liki’s goal is the same, but the dif­fer­ence is that while the U.S. is con­cerned about its econ­omy, Ma­liki is con­cerned with his recog­ni­tion.

If Turkey and Kur­dis­tan want to as­sume a wise ap­proach to th­ese chal­lenges, they should im­prove their ties and make their own de­ci­sions with­out suc­cumb­ing to any ex­ter­nal pres­sure, whether from Iraq, the U.S., or their sur­round­ings, since each of th­ese par­ties are af­ter their own in­ter­ests.

Iraqi pres­sure lacks punch and can be over­looked since it has a weak government that still does not have an oil and gas law by which Er­bil and Bagh­dad should abide. More­over, in ad­di­tion to all the is­sues be­tween the two par­ties, Bagh­dad does not want the re­gion to de­velop and pros­per. Bagh­dad is also un­happy about the acts of Turkey and it al­ways ac­cuses it of try­ing to di­vide Iraq via im­prov­ing its re­la­tions with Kur­dis­tan. In fact Iraq has many is­sues with Turkey, with the Kur­dish is­sue be­ing just one of them.

There other fun­da­men­tal is­sue be­tween the two coun­tries is the Syr­ian is­sue. Iraq is not happy with the role Turkey is able to play in Syria. The rea­son be­hind this is more tribal based as the Iraqi cen­tral government sym­pa­thizes with the cur­rent Syr­ian regime and does wish to see its col­lapse, fear­ing that ex­trem­ist Sun­nis fac­tions may as­sume power. This sce­nario is likely to have an im­pact on Iraq as well.

Bagh­dad is try­ing to ad- dress this anx­i­ety by op­pos­ing KRG’s ef­forts to as­sist the Kurds in Syria, which in the eyes of Bagh­dad would strengthen the Syr­ian op­po­si­tion. In ad­di­tion, the Iraqi government thinks that bring­ing Syr­ian Kur­dish groups to­gether would sup­port Turkey’s role in Syria. In fact this ini­tia­tive by the KRG is nei­ther re­lated to Ankara’s pol­icy nor that of any­one else for that mat­ter, but rather it is re­lated to the na­tional pol­icy of the KRG that wants the Syr­ian Kurds to achieve their rights, pro­vided that they can main­tain their unity and avoid be­com­ing tools in the hands of oth­ers.

In short, the Kur­dis­tan Re­gion should not sur­ren­der to any pres­sures or rely on any prom­ises that have lit­tle weight­ing es­pe­cially from the U.S., which is cur­rently putting pres­sure on Turkey not to strengthen ties with Er­bil as per the cur­rent ex­tent. This new po­si­tion of the U.S. should be con­sid­ered with care. When the Turk­ish-Kur­dish ties were weak, the U.S. was en­cour­ag­ing the par­ties to im­prove them, while to­day the U.S. is iron­i­cally ask­ing both sides to re­strain fur­ther im­prove­ments. It asks Turkey to put on hold the large projects it has in Kur­dis­tan and asks Er­bil to im­prove its ties with Bagh­dad in­stead of Ankara. All this as it is in the best in­ter­ests of the U.S.

The ques­tion here is to what ex­tent should the Kurds have faith in the prom­ises of the U.S., is it not time for Kurds to place their own in­ter­ests first and not to sac­ri­fice them for oth­ers?

Kur­dis­tan has been like the best friend of the U.S. in Iraq and the whole of the Mid­dle East. But this coun­try did not ap­pre­ci­ate the value of this friend­ship and con­tin­ued to sac­ri­fice it for the sake of Bagh­dad, which is act­ing against U.S. poli­cies in the re­gion. An ex­am­ple of this is Bagh­dad’s at­tempts to ham­per one of the best al­lies of the U.S., the Turk­ish Prime Min­is­ter and more­over the is­sue of the cen­tral bank and us­ing it in the in­ter­est of some coun­tries as well as al­low­ing planes trans­port­ing weapons to the Syr­ian government.

Kur­dis­tan strives to have ex­cel­lent ties with Iran, but this coun­try did not play any sig­nif­i­cant role in solv­ing the is­sues be­tween Er­bil and Bagh­dad and did not counter those who asked for the abo­li­tion of the Kur­dish-Shi­ite al­liance. De­spite the rel­a­tive level of con­trol Iran has over the Na­tional Al­liance, dur­ing the re­cent protests in some Sunni ar­eas and the threats th­ese in­ci­dents posed on power, Iran im­me­di­ately in­ter­vened and asked for an im­me­di­ate for­ma­tion of a Kur­dish-Shi­ite al­liance. This is also an­other se­ri­ous ques­tion.

There­fore the only thing that Kur­dis­tan Re­gion should con­sider from now on is its own in­ter­ests, i.e. it should strengthen its ties with Turkey since this would bol­ster both its short­term and long-term goals. Turkey, on the other hands, should con­tinue in the same vein with the goal of boost­ing th­ese ties to new heights. The U.S. should also re­view its mis­guided stance on such de­vel­op­ments and do its best to sup­port th­ese re­la­tions.

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