Once Again, Baghdad, Ankara and Tehran

October 18, 2011

Just about when the Kurdish delegation arrived in Baghdad, the Turkish Parliament supported the army’s “right” to conduct cross-border operations and enter “Iraq” to chase the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK.) And one day after the delegation returned to Kurdistan, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki announced the creation of a joint Iraqi-Iranian committee aimed at ending the presence of the Kurdish rebel group the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK) in the porous border between Iran and Iraqi Kurdistan.
As far as I know, neither of the two events were subject of any meeting, discussion or declaration between the Kurdish delegation and Baghdad.
The timing of the two actions may not have been calculated around the delegation’s visit to Baghdad, but they are indicative of the enormity of the challenge the Kurds are facing.
The Kurdish delegation will realize that their effort should not be focused on Baghdad alone. It requires a regional – and, to an extent, an international Kurdish initiative — to determine exactly what the Kurds can and can’t get.
In Baghdad, the problem has become too substantial for experts and technocrats to solve alone. Although this is an important element of any negotiation, the pre-requisite is Baghdad’s perspective on fundamental Kurdish demands. So far, they seem to be at two ends of the spectrum on federalism, oil and gas, Article 140, partnership in government and other sticking points.
Looking at the situation between Baghdad and Erbil with one eye and the situation on the borders with Iran and Turkey with the other, one can find a link between the two. While perhaps the tie is remove and even farfetched for some, the clear explanation is that they are linked and are objectively feeding each other.
The continued operations along the Turkish and Iranian borders are aimed at ending the PKK and PJAK presence on their borders. The Kurds agree to this. But the question here is: How do they do it? Or how should it be done?
The Kurds stress the need for a peaceful struggle of the Kurds in Turkey and shifting the battle from the mountains to the Parliament and government in Ankara. They should, however, be mindful of what is at stake if the PKK is removed from these areas.
The Kurds and the Turks need to make sure that if they forced the PKK to evacuate Kurdistan’s Tora Bora, the real terrorists will not replace them.
Similarly on the Iranian borders, the Iranian shelling aims to undermine the Kurds in Iraqi Kurdistan. All of these events are occurring as the crisis between Erbil and Baghdad escalates.
Last week, a “very close advisor to Maliki” explained part of the reason. He told an Iraqi media outlet that the reason the Turks and Iranians continue shelling the border is because they want the Iraqi army to control the border with the help of the Peshmerga. This would deal a massive blow to the Kurdish concept of federalism.
The Kurdish delegation and leadership could soon realize that Baghdad alone may not be the place to solve their problems. They may also need to go to Tehran and Ankara to convince them of the virtues of having a Kurdish region in the north that is able to stand on its feet and deserves the help it needs.

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