Kirkuk Complicates Turkey’s Iraq Policies

Article Summary
The increase in tensions between Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government over Kirkuk has implications for Turkey, writes Fateh Abdel Salam.

The Americans left over a year ago, leading Iraqis to believe that the situation would improve — which should have been the case. However, the country is still mired in a deep political crises over power and wealth, two issues over which the U.S. occupation further instigated division and conflict.

The Americans left behind a political mentality that they liked and used to deal with enthusiastically. It is a mentality of threeway sharing, which then became bilateral and is now unilateral. Part of one party is seeking to consolidate the Iraqi political landscape for the long-term through what is constitutionally known as the upcoming election, but is actually a redrawing of the political map.

But let's leave Iraq's problems and crises aside for now. One can't possibly enumerate them all. Just mention the two words “power” and “wealth,” and the rest would be said.

Let's focus on the latest episode in the Iraqi crisis, the ongoing show of force between the Iraqi government and the Kurdish region. The only available space for this show seems to be Kirkuk, being the rich governorate whose fate is unknown according to the political parties.

In fact, the central government army has no influence in the Kurdish region, which has independent powers and an independent constitution.

That army cannot be deployed on the Turkish border, which falls under the administration of the Kurdish region and the protection of the Peshmerga forces. Besides, the only border that Iraq has with Turkey is the Kurdish region, so when the crisis escalates between Baghdad and Erbil, it is as if Iraq does not border Turkey, especially given the great tension between the governments of Ankara and Baghdad.

The most recent aspect of this tension was the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's statement that the Iraqi government is taking the country toward a civil war, in reference to the problem with the Kurdish region and the death penalty issue of the Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, who resides in Turkey.

There is considerable ambiguity in Ankara's position, for Turkey was in favor of keeping Kirkuk a central cause in Baghdad, not one related to the Kurdish region. On the other hand, Turkey is showing great cooperation with the Kurdish region during an apparent Turkish crisis with Baghdad starting with the attitude toward change in Syria and ending with the issue of al-Hashemi.

Meanwhile, the Kirkuk crisis, out of all of the others, still resonates differently in Iraq and Turkey. The ongoing escalation over Kirkuk will never be an internal cause, and this cannot be avoided except through internal solutions, which do not seem to be forthcoming at all.

Found in: turkmen, peshmerga, kurdistan, kirkuk, iraqi kurds

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