The Kurds and the triangle

April 24, 2012

The crisis between the political blocs has reached the next level with Ankara and Tehran becoming overtly involved. The Kurds are once again at risk of being at a crossroads, where neither direction offers much benefit.

Turkish PM Erdogan’s clear attack of Maliki, accusing him of being “self-centered” and causing tension between the country’s Shi’ites, Sunnis and Kurds amid a constitutional crisis in Baghdad, will cause a problem for the Kurds, especially because he made this statement right after a meeting with President Barzani.

The recent escalation of the issue could isolate the Kurds from Baghdad and Tehran and find them in the Turkish camp. This is particularly risky for the Kurds since the U.S. is not interested in becoming involved in the internal affairs of Iraq.

Already, statements from Baghdad’s pro-Maliki MPs have been released that criticize Barzani for “strengthening himself through outside powers.” Similarly, the Iraqi government could easily say that Erdogan should be the last one to speak about equality because of the treatment of Kurds in his own country. After all, the Kurds of Iraq are in a better situation than the Kurds of Turkey.

Erdogan’s later statement, reported by NTV News, almost backtracked on his earlier remarks. “We don’t differentiate between Sunnis or Shi’ites, Arabs, Kurds or Turkmen. They are all our brothers,” the statement said. In other words: there is no special relationship with the Kurds. This could further isolate the Kurds from the rest of the country.

The other concern that Kurds should be aware of is that Turkey has always put fighting the PKK at the center of relations with the KRG. It is an expectation that Turkey always has of Iraqi Kurds.

Being in a bad relationship with Baghdad, who has managed to rally Iran’s support too, could run the risk of Iraq’s Kurds being more dependent on Turkey and having to do what it asks them to.

While Turkey is an important neighbor for the Kurdistan Region, the Kurds of Iraq should be aware of the risk of having to put all their eggs in Ankara’s basket. They should differentiate their status from that of others who have problems with Maliki and ultimately with Baghdad or the new Iraq.

Maliki’s visit to Tehran, and the more balanced, diplomatic and calm Iranian statement that came out of his meeting with Ahmadinejad, should tell the Kurds that Iran is still big brother for many Iraqis and can still call the shots whenever a crisis erupts in Iraq.

Past crises have showed that Iran’s influence is stronger than America’s power in Iraq. Turkey is too busy with other portfolios and is being encouraged by the Sunni Arab world to assume this role with Iraq.

In short, what is happening now between Iran and Turkey over Iraq is part of the bigger Sunni and Shia conflict in the region. Both have their different agendas for Baghdad but have a similar attitude towards the rising status of Kurds, who should be aware of this and keep an equal distance form both.

It is only a matter of time before we see them both shelling the borders again.

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