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Called "zero problems with the neighbors," that policy is no longer applicable.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. 

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