ISTANBUL - While the United States has always been a crucial ally for Iraqi Kurds, the prospect of losing Washington as their direct protector is compelling Kurdish leaders to approach Turkey as the only viable alternative, according to a report.
The International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based American think tank, said in a report titled "Iraq and the Kurds: Trouble Along the Trigger Line" that Kurdish leaders began to talk openly concerning the need to deal with Turkey since 2007.
The report also quoted an unnamed Kurdish official as saying: "We have the right to be independent, but if that doesn’t work out, then I’d rather be with Turkey than Iraq." It expressed the consistent improvement of the ties between the Regional Kurdish Authority in northern Iraq and Ankara following the re-election of the ruling Justice and Development Party.
"If the Shiites choose Iran, and the Sunnis choose the Arab world, then the Kurds will have to ally themselves with Turkey," the report quoted Fuad Hussein, chief of staff of Massoud Barzani, the leader of the regional administration in northern Iraq, as saying. "In turn, Turkey will need the Kurds in that case. We are compelled to be with Turkey, and from Turkey’s perspective they have no other friend or partner in Iraq."
He also noted that Kurdish officials are convinced that U.S. President Barack Obama will act in accordance with the timetable he announced, adding that Kurdish leaders are of the opinion that Iraq will collapse in the aftermath. Under these circumstances, he said, Kurds will avail Turkish protection. He added that Turkey, in return, will attain the opportunity of having direct access to the huge oil and gas reserves in the Kurdish region. "Turkey will have Kirkuk indirectly. It’s the only way for Turkey to get it."
The report underlined the point that although Barzani has not yet held talks with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Turkish President Abdullah Gül, senior Kurdish officials have had contacts with Turkish officials several times.
"These developments have revived the notion of ’Mosul vilayet,’ Iraq’s old Mosul province to which post-Ottoman Turkey laid claim," noted the report, highlighting the point that "the impetus is coming not from Turkish nationalist circles but from the Kurdish side, even at senior levels."
It also included the expressions of both Kurdish and Turkish officials regarding the betterment of ties between the two parties without citing their names. "We have the right to be independent, but if that doesn’t work out, then I’d rather be with Turkey than Iraq, because Iraq is undemocratic," said a senior Kurdish leader. The best way forward, he said, was for the Kurdish region "to join Turkey as part of a new ’Mosul vilayet’ and for Turkey to join the EU, with a solution for the situation of the Kurds in Turkey."
Ankara, which does not want Iran to increase its influence over Iraq, seeks to boost its ties with Baghdad in order to strengthen the central government in the country, said report.