No country would volunteer to be in Turkey’s situation vis-a-vis Iraq. Ankara has found itself on the ropes of various fronts.
Ankara’s relations with the Iraqi government have soured due to Turkey’s oil agreements with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) without the consent of Baghdad and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s sectarian politics. Recently, however, Maliki stated that Iraq wants a new beginning with Turkey. This opening came in the wake of speculations about Iraq’s fugitive Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi. Al-Hashemi, who had been issued three death sentences and had taken refuge in Turkey since December 2011, is said to have moved to Qatar. That Baghdad did not permit the Turkish Energy Minister’s plane to land in Arbil recently could potentially generate huge amounts of drama as well, yet it was carefully downplayed by Ankara. However, no matter how hard both parties try to keep the longstanding tension under control, it will remain there for some time.
On the other hand, despite the golden era in Turkey’s economic, political and strategic relations with the KRG, this one remains a complicated relationship. Turkey fears the foundation of an independent Kurdish state. Turkish authorities have not even recognized the northern Iraqi administration by its official name, the “Kurdistan regional government.” The prospect of a quasi-independent Syrian-Kurdish entity in northern Syria exacerbates this longstanding fear. Adding to these concerns is Turkey’s own Kurdish problem. Unless Turkey accommodates the demands of its own Kurds, Turkish Kurds will have more incentive to demand for themselves the autonomy enjoyed by other Kurdish communities. It is already kind of ironic to act as the big brother of northern Iraq while unable to solve the domestic Kurdish question.
Ankara cannot afford to side with the Kurds against the Arabs, including Sunnis in the region.Verda Özer
Barzani sides with Turkey in its struggle with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and vis-a-vis Syria. He recently reconciled different Kurdish groups in Syria and paved the way for the foundation of a unified Kurdish coalition. He did this by declaring that he wants to unify all Kurds. This is a reminder of how the Kurdish problem cuts across borders and how Barzani presents himself as the leader of all Kurds. He wouldn’t risk losing influence over Kurds at any price.