The Impact on the Politics of Iraq and Turkey and Their Bilateral Relations Regarding Kurds Post-Saddam Hussein Regime

Recently, Iraq has just about entered a semblance of political stability, or at least International Legitimacy, due to the 2005 and 2010 elections. Kurds are definetely in a better position both in terms of gaining autonomy as well as having a part in government. The need of the day obviously requires a changing attitude towards Kurds, not just from the domestic constituency in Iraq, but also from the Turkish perspective. This can be seen as on April 9, 2010, the President of Iraq’s Kurdistan Region, Massoud Barzani, received an official diplomatic visit by the new Turkish consul, Aydin Selcen, who had arrived to take up office in Erbil. Most high-level Iraqi Kurdish officials will readily admit that the key to their future lies in maintaining positive relations with Turkey and also with Iran, which already has a consulate in Erbil. As such,wdisputes and disappointments of the past are being put aside. The establishment of official Turkish diplomatic representation underscores the headway that has been made in transcending these political tensions and building upon the commercial ties that have developed in recent years. Also, The rail link that runs between Iraq and Turkey via Mosul was re-opened in February 2010 after a seven-year closure following the US-led invasion, reinforcing trade links between Turkey and the south of Iraq. Therefore, post-Saddam Hussein, change is definetely in the air for the bilateral relations between both the states of Iraq and Turkey, especially concerning the Kurdish Issue. As Iraq is still in its post-transtitional phase, the future of the Kurdish issue between these two neighbouring states remain quiet uncertain.

Conclusion

Like the Berber community, a nomadic tribe, the Kurds do not have a common, unifying language or religious similarities which could bind them together. In the concluding analysis, therefore, it can be surmised that the Kurdish issue today does have a growing  significant impact on the bilateral relations between Turkey and Iraq (the focus of this paper), along with Iran and Syria. The Kurds have finally seen new inspiration after the Iraq case in asserting themselves up front and not hiding behind the traditional fear of state repression.  What’s more significant is the eventual Turkish Kurd demand for recognition and the state’s acceptance of the existence of a population called the Kurds in Turkey, which was previously ignored as ‘mountain Turks’ or simply seen as a border ‘Southeast’ problem. The Kurds acheiving great political heights in Iraq significantly improves their morale, and they have already been accredited with autonomy and other political benefits.

The United States has a pivotal role to play in this scenario. However, ultimate responsibility rests with political leaders representing the interests of Turks and Iraqis, including Iraqi Kurds. The “Atlantic Council of the United States and its Program on Transatlantic Relations” director David L. Phillips is of the opinion that “it will be to the advantage of all parties to develop a ‘track two’ dialogue to prepare public opinion for rapprochement and create a critical mass of integrated activities based on a shared vision for the future”.  The impetus must come from Turks and Iraqi Kurds themselves. “Civil society activities complement, but cannot replace, official negotiations.  An Iraq at peace with itself and its neighbors will have positive reverberations beyond Iraq’s borders. Just as crisis is contagious, progress can affect events across the Middle East and South Asia.  Effective power-sharing between Iraqis will demonstrate an alternative to violence for achieving political goals. Regional cooperation between Iraqi Kurds and Turks will affrm the benefts of cooperation over confrontation. Turkey’s continued democratization and development will beneft all Turks, including the Kurds of Turkey, while demonstrating the benefts of secular democracy to the Arab and Muslim world.”

Notes

[1] The US Country Studies Reports speak in elaboration of the various sub dialects spoken by these Kurds <http://countrystudies.us/turkey/28.htm>

[2] This Treaty of Sevres spoke of an Kurdish State, but this never materialised as the Kurds with their diversity could not establish a united front, whereas during this time frame, state borders were being drawn as permanent structures of mordern states  in the Arab world. The missed opporturnity still works as a detriment to the formation of Kurdistan with borders as emphasised by the 1920 Treaty. Even  though  today we find the autonomous region in Iraq, the creation of Kurdistan, across the borders of several sovereign States, inspite of the geographic continuity of Kurds, seem bleak.

[3] The permanent Constitution is that of the 2005 Constitution, the first Permanent Constituion as well as Government Iraq has ever had.

[4] According to Human Rights Watch, during the Anfal campaign, the Iraqi government massacred 50,000 to 100,000 non-combatant civilians including women and children, destroyed about 4,000 villages (out of 4,655) in Iraqi Kurdistan. Between April 1987 and August 1988, 250 towns and villages were exposed to chemical weapons and destroyed 1,754 schools, 270 hospitals, 2,450 mosques, 27 churches and wiped out around 90% of Kurdish villages in targeted areas.

[5] The Law of Administration for the State of Iraq for The Transitional Period (TAL), Iraq’s interim constitution.

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