The northern Iraq is not an easy geography: It is an enclave; it has no direct exit to the open seas. It is surrounded by Syria, Iran, Turkey and the rest of chaotic Iraq. The northern Iraq is located one of the most volatile regions in the world. The population of the region is mixture of Kurds, Arabs, Turkmens and other ethnic groups. Even Kurds are not a single people. Apart from the ethnic differences, the religious and sectarian differences are so strong and make people foreigners if not enemies.
Massoud Barzani and Jelal Talabani dream of an independent Kurdish state on this territory. Barzani and Talabani now control the north eastern Iraqi territories and a slight line in the north. However they want Kerkuk (Kirkuk) and Mosul regions too. Both of these regions produce more than 40 percent of the Iraqi oil. Thus they aim to finance a possible independence of the dreamed Kurdish state.
The evidences for the Kurdish independence dream in the north is very vivid:
- The Iraqi national flag cannot be seen in the north, but the local Kurdish flag is everywhere,
- Iraqis from the other regions cannot enter the northern territories without official permission of the Kurdish authorities,
- Iraqi Kurds have their own central bank, parliament and many other ‘national’ institutions,
- Arabs, Turkmens and other ethnic groups are ignored by the local rulers, all posts are devoted to the Kurds,
- The mountain Kurds and Kurds from Syria and Iran have been encouraged and/or forced to settle down in the towns where Arabs or Turkmens are majority. Thus the demography in these towns has been shifted in the favor of the Kurds.
Thanks to the American aid Barzani started a great construction campaign in the north. He makes efforts to create a modern nation-state while the rest of Iraq has been destroyed. New highways, university campuses, high buildings etc. appear in the north as the smoke never ends over the rest of Iraqi territories.
Interestingly more than 80 percent of all construction business in Iraqi Kurdistan has been carried out by the Turkish companies. Turkish businessmen have been there while the Americans and Europeans were reluctant to come to the ‘risky Iraq’. The total volume of Turkish direct investment and Turkish contracts in the region is about 5 billion dollars. Annual bilateral trade between Turkey and Iraq is also estimated at $3-5 billion and Turkish contractors have been eying the $15 billion in construction contracts expected to be awarded over the next three years by the Iraqi Kurdish authorities. Electricity, bottled drinking water, furniture, automobiles, textile etc. all comes from Turkey. Apart from trade, direct investment and contracts, the Habur border gate with Turkey is the only gateway to rich and free world for the Iraqi Kurds. Iranian, Syrian and Iraqi ways are risky, longer and expensive compared with the Habur. Turkey is the safest, cheapest and shorter way to Europe and other parts of the world. Turkey is also an ultimate destination for many Iraqi Kurds.
In brief Turkey has made great contribution to the Iraqi Kurds in rebuilding their own home because the Turkish Government has never afraid of the Iraqi Kurds. Even a possible Kurdish state in Iraq does not fear many Turkish politicians and people, because they know that a Kurdish state cannot survive without Turkish support. Therefore Turkish Government has kept the Habur gateway open and encouraged Turkish businessmen to make investment in Northern Iraq although Ankara Government has insisted on the unity of Iraqi territories. It means that Turkey is not an anti-Kurdish state and not afraid of a Kurdish state. If the Kurds can convince the Arabs, Turkmen and other Iraqis for a peaceful separation, or any kind of national governing, Turkey would not involve the domestic issues in Iraq. As long as the Iraqi peoples, including Turkmens, are safe and the Northern Iraq does not cause threat against Turkey, Turkey would be outside of the Iraqi domestic business.
In another word Turkey’s attitude towards the Kurdish Iraqi region cannot be considered as hostile. As a matter of fact that Turkey has made great contribution to the Kurdish welfare and security since the Iraq War. However the Barzani and Talabani bit the hand that feeds them. Both opened their territories to the PKK terrorists. There have been more than 20 terror camps in Barzani area for the years. The terrorists are in the Barzani and Talabani towns. Peshmerges ignore the terrorist activities. The PKK militants move freely in the north. The PKK offices are open in some Iraqi Kurdish cities. Barzani declared that they cannot fight the PKK. He also said that they had no power to remove the PKK camps. Turkey offered help and suggested joint operations against the terrorists, yet neither Barzani nor the Baghdad Government accepted the Turkish offer. Barzani even threatened Turkey by saying “if Turkey enters the Kurdish territories we will resist”. Strangely Mr. Barzani, who cannot dare to confront with the PKK terrorists, is very brave to fight the Turkish troops. It is obvious that Barzani (and Talabani) plays a dangerous and dirty game. They avoid calling the PKK as terrorist organization while the US, UK, Germany, EU, Turkey and many other countries’ laws consider the PKK as terrorist. Even Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki called the PKK ‘terrorist’ in his Turkey visit in August 2007. However the Iraqi Kurdish leadership did not recognize their PM Maliki’s words and they claimed that the PKK is not terrorist. Jamal Abdullah, spokesman of the regional government, for instance said “the PKK is Turkey’s problems and how Turkey defines the PKK is not our business. We cannot define the PKK as terrorist.” Similarly Massoud Barzani refuses to speak out against the PKK even implies that the PKK is a legitimate political movement. As Morton Abramowitz, former American ambassador to Ankara, pointed out Barzani lets the PKK terrorists use his country freely. No state could allow such a situation.
Massoud Barzani is so passionate and impatient for an independent Kurdish state, that’s why he in last August threatened “a real civil war” in Iraq if a referendum to incorporate the oil-rich city of Kirkuk into Kurdish territory continues to be delayed by the other Iraqi political factions. If Mr. Barzani can assume all risks, including ‘a real civil war’ for a non-exist but dreamed state, he would understand that Turkey can also put the conflict or war into perspective for an existing state. Yet he lies as experienced before. Though the referandum was delayed no civil war has erupted. Now Barzani says that the PKK was not terrorist organisation. He stated: "we have made peaceful suggestions to the PKK. If they do not accept these offers, we will then consider them a terrorist organization." Mr. Barzani plays very dirty games. Turkey like the US and many other countries knows that the PKK terrorists have been supproted by the Barzani forces. Barzani peshmerges provided thousands of American weapons, food and intelligence. The PKK militants live in the Barzani towns and villages. He knows well where the PKK is located against the Turkish forces. It means that Barzani has chosen his side while Turkey has massed up to 100,000 troops, backed by fighters, helicopter gunships and tanks on the border for a possible offensive against about the PKK terrorists using Iraq as a base from which to carry out attacks in Turkey. The only aim of the Turkish incusion is to destroy the terrorist bases yet if Mr. Barzani continues to support the terrorists in Iraq, the target may change in a short time.
29 October 2007