As the Middle-East unravels, Kurdistan
displays its new leverage
By Bashdar Ismaeel
August 12, 2012
Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (R) and
Iraq's Kurdistan Region president Massoud Barzani
hug before their meeting in Ankara on April 20,
2012. Photo: Getty Images.
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Increasing Turkish dependence on KRG as a factor of
peace and stability in the region. Kurdistan Region
is no longer a threat but a ticket for Turkish
stability, economic prosperity and to maintain their
strategic influence in the ever-changing dynamics of
conflict-torn Middle East.
Turks and Kurds have always been natural allies. It
may have come decades too late and with much
suffering for the Kurdish people later, but Ankara
has grown to accept a reality, that was always
prevalent, but they chose to mask in the pretext of
narrow nationalist pursuits.
That reality is that as a major ethnic group of the
Middle East both at present and throughout history,
Kurds and Kurdistan have always existed as a key
component of the region, regardless of
constitutional stipulations, policies of repressive
governments or a lack of statehood.
Turkey spent years threatening the Kurdistan Region
and making accusations against them. Now in the ever
changing Middle Eastern climate, perhaps it is
Turkey that is more in need of the Kurds as natural
Ankara has acknowledged that strong ties with the
Kurdistan Region are vital to maintaining stability
in Turkey, the surrounding region and the Turkish
quest for influence in the new Middle East. Turkish
analysts mistakenly observe that their border with
the Kurdish territories has increased from 800km to
1,200km. They are wrong. The border of the Kurds
stretches much further when you include Iranian
Kurdistan and remnants of the soviet areas of
Furthermore, the Kurdish border never “increased”,
it is and always has been the same length.
In simple terms, Turkey was always engulfed by
Kurdistan. While oppressive policies of the previous
regimes in respective countries kept the Kurdish
segments largely apart, these borders are been
The Kurdistan Region is now the national hub of the
Kurds and their economic, cultural and strategic
centre. Movement between the parts of Kurdistan is
becoming easier and the Kurdistan Regional
Government’s (KRG) economic boom and newfound
prominence, is a gain for all parts of Kurdistan.
There is already an increasing labour, trade and
employment benefits for Kurds outside of the KRG.
Turkey needs the KRG to keep peace, stability and
diplomatic channels in the parts of Kurdistan they
Kurds over Iraqi Arabs?
Turkey is increasingly choosing Kurdistan over
Baghdad. At the same pace as Ankara-Baghdad
relations have deteriorated, Ankara-Erbil ties have
Already boasting billions of dollars of trade
between them, new energy deals and oil pipelines, in
the face of fierce objections from Baghdad, adds new
economic dimensions to already flourishing
Just this week, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet
Davutoğlu paid a symbolic visit to Kirkuk. The fact
this was the first of its kind in 75 years says it
This is the same city that for Turkey was a red-line
and the city Turkey had threatened many invasions
over. Now the visit was conducted, much to the anger
of Baghdad, side by side with Kurds. Long-time
Turkish aspirations for influence in the old Ottoman
Mosul Vilayet that they historically crave, runs
through Erbil, much in the same way as Turkey’s
quest to promote Turkmen interests can only be
achieved through Kurdistan.
The Iraqi foreign ministry issued a sharp rebuke to
Turkey for “violating” its constitution as they
claimed that Davutoglu had neither requested nor
obtained permission to enter Kirkuk.
Baghdad repeated what Davutoglu already knew. But
it’s the Kurds they need in Iraq right now, not
Baghdad, hence why Turkey agreed to export Kurdish
oil in a historic move, again,www.ekurd.net
against a backdrop of a stern backlash from Baghdad.
The fact that in recent weeks the likes of Chevron,
Total and Gazprom joined the rush of oil-giants, on
the side-lines for so many years,is also an
indicator of Turkish backing of the KRG for such
Oil giants are fed-up of the waiting game with
Baghdad and have signed lucrative contracts with the
KRG knowing fully well what the Baghdad stance and
risks would entail.
They effectively chose Kurdistan over Baghdad.
Whilst the public Turkish rhetoric is
understandable, if nothing to appease the
nationalist hawks and military elite, in reality
Turkey can do little to prevent the Kurdish
autonomous advancement in Syria.
Much in the same way as it finally warmed to the
reality of a Kurdistan government next door in Iraq,
Turkey will come to realise that it needs to lure
and work with the Syrian Kurds rather than alienate
Furthermore, it will be rather ironic, that they
promote and support the democratic and freedom
struggles of the Sunni Arabs, yet chastise the
Kurds, who have suffered a lot worse than Arabs
under Baathist rule, for wanting the same.
Too often for Turkey, a nationalistic Kurd has been
synonymous with a PKK sympathiser. Most Kurds are
nationalists but not all support the PKK.
While there is an undoubted PKK support base in
Syria, there is also clearly a multitude of other
Kurdish political parties in the mix. It’s not the
Kurdistan Democratic Union Party (PYD) that solely
rules the roost as many allege.
The PYDmay actually serve as an opportunity and not
as a threat to Turkey. Not only can it slowly bring
the PYD to its sphere of influence with an affective
carrot and stick approach, it can also use it as a
way to diminish support of the PKK in Syria and
If Turkish Kurds can see that nationalist goals can
be achieved in Syria without the PKK, it may well
The root cause for endless circle of violence
between the PKK and Turkey has been the failure of
Ankara to address the roots of its problems.
Success against the PKK cannotbe achieved by
shooting them down from their mountains and
strongholds, but it is to prevent their ascent in
the first place.
Any military incursion by Turkey into Syrian
Kurdistan will have dire consequence. It will
further antagonise the PYD into a hard-line stance
and certainly tip the scale for Kurdish moderates.
Even the PKK have renewed grounds for striking
peace, if they can find a political voice in Syria,
it may well change the tune of negotiations in
Turkey, affording them with a unique opportunity to
break from arms and their image.
Syrian Kurdish foster
Kurdistan President Massaud Barzani and Turkish
Foreign Minister Davutoglu both warned in a joint
statement that "any attempt to exploit the power
vacuum by any violent group or organisation will be
considered as a common threat."
Barzani is unlikely to relinquish support and unity
with PYD, but the statement serves as a warning to
the party, to keep withina political path and uphold
the terms of the Erbil Agreement.
Turkey may well accept the PYD as long as the PYD
works closely with the Kurdistan Region. Some
Turkish circles had expressed surprise at Barzani’s
key part in the Erbil agreement that ensured Syrian
Kurdish unity, but Ankara will in the background
accept and encourage Barzani and the KRG to becoming
the foster parents of the Syrian Kurds.
Increasing economic and political Turkish support
for the KRG and perhaps even statehood will come
under the trade-off that peace and stability can be
maintained in Turkish Kurdistan and the surrounding
Turkey and Kurdistan may well become a de-facto
confederation. It may seem strange and delusional,
but how believable was senior Turkish leaders openly
referring to the term Kurdistan and giving press
conferences under the flags of Kurdistan and Turkey,
just a few years ago?
Such strong alliances could well be win-win for
Turks and Kurds. Turkey has access to Europe and the
possibility of future European Union membership with
all the benefits it entails, whilst Kurdistan has
access to billions of barrels of oil, are secular
Sunni’s like Turkey and form an increasingly
important buffer against Shiite influence and in the
ever hostile and conflict torn Middle East that is
threatening to severely damage Turkish standing in
Bashdar Pusho Ismaeel is a London-based freelance
writer and analyst, a regular
contributing writer for Ekurd.net website. Ismaeel whose primary focus and
expertise is on the Kurds, Iraq and Middle Eastern
current affairs. The main focus of his writing is to
promote peace, justice and increase awareness of the
diversity, suffering and at times explosive mix in
Iraq and the Middle East.
Most recently he has produced work for the
Washington Examiner, Asian Times, The Epoch Times,
Asia News, The Daily Star (Lebanon), Kurdish Globe,
Hewler Post, Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), KurdishMedia, PUK Online and OnlineOpinion.
He has achieved seminar recommended readings for Le
High University (Pennsylvania) and Massachusetts
Institute of Technology. His work has been
republished extensively elsewhere on the Internet.
He is a longtime contributing writer and columnist for Ekurd.net. You may reach the author via email at:
First appeared on: Kurdish Globe
Other Primary Sources of Republication: Ekurd.net,
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