Kurds and the political balance in Iraq
The persistent impact of public opinion on public policy
Nothing seems to have changed in the new federal democracy of Iraq: the government is ruled by the same ideology, the same minds, the same policies. Personally, I don’t think the democratic system is to blame, it’s more about the cultures of the Middle East.
The Kurds have taken the Iraqi government to task over the political cost of excluding Sunnis, Kurds and other ethnic minorities. The Iraqi government’s mismanagement of Iraqi politics has contributing to the recent surge in violence. The insurgents believe the Iraqi government is too dominated by Iran, and Baghdad’s mistreatment of the Sunnis and the Kurds is pushing the former towards extremism. The unwise policies currently being pursued by the Iraqi Government are the same that drove Iraq to civil war over the last decade, and there is every reason to fear the same fate may befall Iraq once more.
In contrast, the Kurds present the world with a bright new image of a modern federal democracy in the KRG. As stipulated by the Iraqi constitution, Iraq will be divided into federal regions that will handle their own domestic affairs while the Baghdad central government deals with international affairs. The Kurds have warned that the Iraqi government may be pulling the country back towards civil war.
Turkey’s strategic relationship with the KRG gives Ankara additional sway over Baghdad, while the relatively stable region serves as a buffer to insulate Turkey’s southeastern corner against the instability besetting the rest of Iraq.
Turkey must now choose either to turn its back on Baghdad and press ahead with its deal with the Kurds, or to suspend direct exports from the region until an agreement is reached between the Iraqi central government and Erbil.
Kurdish oil will help diversify Turkey’s energy supplies away from Russia and Iran and reduce a ballooning $60 billion energy bill. However, the motives for better ties go beyond hydrocarbons: Turkey’s interest in the KRG is driven as much by geopolitics as it is by Turkey’s energy needs
Ankara is also counting on the KRG to help it make peace with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a three-decade war against it at a cost of more than 40,000 lives on both sides. The PKK guerrillas have now withdrawn from Turkey to their bases in the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan as part of the peace process. It is thus clear that Turkey and the Kurds need each other, and I think that situation is going to persist into the long term.
On the Kurdish side, apart from providing the landlocked Kurds with an outlet to global markets, Turkey is a crucial ally for Erbil in a hostile region following the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.