Friday, October 31, 2008

Diplomacy with Arbil

From Mehmet Ali Birand:
For the past two or three years the Turkish military held a sharp vıew of the northern Iraqi Kurdish leader, Mesud Barzani. Barzani's stance toward Turkey after the invasion of Iraq by U.S. forces, plus the expansion of the PKK's activities in northern Iraq caused fury beyond belief. The former Chief of General Staff, Yaşar Büyükanıt, often called attention to “not talking to northern Iraqi Kurds,” a result of this reaction.

In reality, the Turkish military was not in favor of no contact with the Kurds but wanted the government to take steps. The military was to be kept out. Within this framework they stepped back. The situation is progressively changing. The Turkish military has relaxed. The Chief of Staff is still against Kirkuk being connected to the Kurds or northern Iraq becoming independent. But in view of the changing conjuncture, he cannot declare this in a sharp manner.

The Kirkuk issue has been postponed and it is not obvious when it will come up again. On top of that, Sunni and Shiite Iraqis have shown more sensitivity to Kirkuk than the Turks. It is a place far too valuable to leave to the Kurds. Namely, the real owners of this issue are Iraqi Arabs. The issue of independence has dropped from the agenda because all segments, Iraqis Sunni, Shiite and even Kurds, have agreed that territorial integrity needs to be preserved. These two issues are no longer top priorities.

Another development is that Barzani has started to watch his words. He used to heavily accuse Turkey when he was not able to manage his nationalist reflexes. He must have realized that this was a needless approach and harmed relations, as he became quiet. Both sides have understood their interdependence.

If I were to summarize, I would use this sentence without hesitation, “Both sides understand that they depend on each other and need to continue their lives showing understanding for each others sensitive matters.” Who is more or less dependent, we cannot calculate. Turkey is larger and more powerful than northern Iraq, but dependent on northern Iraq's support regarding the PKK.
For a detailed analysis of rapprochement between Turkey and the KRG, and the TSK's new take on Barzani, click here for recent analysis from EDM.

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