Thursday, November 21, 2013

Kerry and Davutoglu Touch on Kurdish Role In New Middle East

By Namo Abdulla - for Rudaw
Washington, D.C. - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry received Turkish Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, in the State Department for talks on a wide-range of issues in which Turkish role is considered vital.

Mr. Kerry praised Turkish government's attempts to initiate some cultural reforms for the country's long suppressed Kurdish minority.

Mr. Davutoglu talked of the significance of the relations his country has forged with Iraq's Kurds "for ethnic and sectarian peace" in Iraq.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Will Obama Back al-Maliki’s Seek of a Third Term in Iraq?

By Namo Abdulla - for Rudaw

Washington, D.C – Iraq’s Prime Minister, Nuri al-Maliki, was here in Washington last week for the first time ever since the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

Before saying anything about al-Maliki’s most recent visit, let’s take a look back at his previous visit:
On December 12, 2011, days before the last U.S. solider would leave Iraq, al-Maliki was standing with President Obama, who proudly declared that he was bringing “a responsible end” to a long and costly war in Iraq.

Obama didn’t leave his “a-responsible-end” phrase entirely unexplained: Iraq is now “sovereign, self-reliant and democratic,” he added.

He also praised al-Maliki as the leader “of the most inclusive government yet.”

But exactly six days later, upon al-Maliki’s return to Iraq, see what happened: Iraq’s Vice President, Tariq al-Hashimi, the highest ranking Sunni politician, had to flee to Kurdistan because the Shiite-led government sought to arrest him on terrorism charges.

Ever since the last U.S. solder left Iraq; al-Maliki has been accused of making several other attempts to sideline Sunni and Kurdish politicians. This has made many describe him as an authoritarian leader who prioritizes his sectarian identity over Iraqi nationalism.

This time, here in Washington, things seemed very different, too. Al-Maliki didn't receive the kind of warm welcome he was given two years ago.

As Iraqis are currently suffering a degree of violence not seen since the darkest days of the sectarian war, Obama didn't reiterate his 2011 claim that Iraq was “sovereign, self-reliant and democratic.”

He didn't hold a press conference either to allow reporters to raise questions like these ones:

- Mr. President; is Maliki still the leader of “the most inclusive government” in Iraq?
- Have you really brought a responsible end to the Iraq war?

So now what’s Obama’s policy towards Iraq, a Shiite-dominated, oil-rich nation where US interests are manifold? After the loss of thousands of American lives and billions of their dollars, can Obama draft a policy that helps Iraq emerge as a decent society for its citizens and a reliable ally for the U.S.?

To discuss this subject, Rudaw talks to:

- Zalmay Khalilzad, America’s former Ambassador to Iraq and Afghanistan.

- Clifford May, President of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Are Turkey and Kurdistan indispensable Partners?

By Namo Abdulla - for Rudaw

Washington, D.C. - Before the 2011 popular Arab uprisings started, Turkey pursued a friendly and economically-driven foreign policy with its neighbors.

Called "zero problems with the neighbors," that policy is no longer applicable. At the moment, Turkey has problems with almost all of its surrounding nations, except for the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan in northern Iraq.

Relations between Turkey, whose energy is hugely dependent on foreign oil, and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) have not only remained intact but also progressed considerably ever since 2009 as Iraqi Kurds have discovered and developed new oil and gas fields in their territory and remained relatively stable in an otherwise turbulent country.

 But the Turkey-KRG friendship has been at the expense of Ankara-Baghdad relations, which have remained strained for years. Over the past few weeks, however, Turkish and Iraqi diplomats have exchanged visits, signaling the possibility for improved ties between the government of Prime Minister Nuri Maliki in Iraq and that of his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

This has caused some Kurds to fear that the improvement of Ankara-Baghdad ties would have negative impacts on Turkey's relationship with the KRG, which continues to be at odds with Baghdad over significant issues such as oil and land. How reasonable is that fear?

Or have Turkey and the KRG become indispensable partners as each of them attempt to boot its position in an increasingly tumultuous region? What kind of role do the Kurds play in Turkey's aggressive search for regional dominance in a new Middle East whose current borders are increasingly challenged by a resurgence of ethno-sectarian politics?

To discuss this subject, Rudaw talks to:

- Eli Sugarman, a fellow at Truman National Security Project who has coauthored a report on the regional significance of the KRG-Turkey relations for the United States. The report was published last week.

- Scott Bates, President of the Center for National Policy. Mr. Bates has been in Iraq, where he worked with the country's elected leaders on how to rebuild the country after the war. He also has extensive experience on Capitol Hill where he served as advisers to several congressmen on domestic and foreign affairs.