Iran and Turkey Squeeze Iraq’s Kurds
The merger of the dominant political parties within Kurdish Iraq, Masoud Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Jalal Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), while very good for the long-suffering Kurds within Iraq, poses all sorts of problems for Kurdish Iraq’s neighboring states, Iran and Turkey. As the Iraqi Kurds seek to increasingly speak with one public voice while arriving at it more and more via internal wrangling, it solidifies their position’s strength within the Iraqi government and affords it both increased power and options going forward, should the Iraqi government falter and/or the security situation sink below tolerable levels.
Iran and Turkey plainly and openly fear the Iraqi Kurds and their ability to embolden the Kurds within each country towards active separatist movements, eventually seeking to establish a Kurdistan comprised of swaths of present-day Iraq, Iran and Turkey.
It is within this context that Turkey and Iran have been massing troops and artillery to their borders with Iraq. Neither country wants the civil war that will ensue as Kurds would eventually seek to take with them a swath of land from which to create a contiguous Kurdistan from the corners of Iraq, Turkey and Iran.
With this as a principal motivating factor, the relationship between the Turkish and the Iranian governments continues to warm. The two are looking to expand parliamentary ties and build closer diplomatic relationships as Iran’s Expediency Council Chairman, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, noted that the two have common security concerns in region. Rafsanjani said, “Iran and Turkey are great states with effective role[s] in the region. Neighborhood and common grounds between Iran and Turkey in terms of religious and cultural affinity serve to develop Tehran-Ankara relations.” Both he and Turkish Ambassador Gurcan Turkoglu mentioned stability in Iraq and the Palestinian issue, but did not publicly address directly the elephant in both their living rooms, the Kurds.
But the elephant can be clearly seen if not heard. And, this elephant will remain for far longer than the American and coalition forces in Iraq or Afghanistan.