Turkish-kurdish relations and the misguided concerns of the US
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.