28 Apr 2012

Turkey fears Crescent


[ Crescent set to rise over the former Sunni city - Baghdad ]

Sunni Ankara and nuclear Baghdad

By Zuheir Kseibati - Friday, 27 April 2012

Following the Syrian scene which has become the arena of a conflict by proxy between the Western-American axis and the Russian-Chinese-Iranian axis, or that of a Sunni-Shiite conflict between Iran and Turkey on the regional level, Iraq seems to be prone to witness a Turkish-Iranian war by proxy - especially if the violence and the killing in Syria continue. There, on the border with Turkey, NATO is ready, but with reservations, considering that the alliance will not lead a military campaign to intervene in support of the Free Syrian Army as it has been stating so far at least. On the other hand, Erdogan’s government is aware of the fact that the conflict over regional influence with Tehran is not in its favor for the time being, especially since the West – which is seeking a deal with Iran that would see the page turned on the nuclear crisis with Tehran – is unable, even if it wants to, to sever the veins of support, from Tehran to Damascus.

Istanbul hosted the Iranians’ talks with the P5+1 states in the hope to avoid an Israeli-American attack against Iranian nuclear facilities, as the repercussions of such a war would be too great for any state in the region to contain. But the situation has shifted and Baghdad will now be hosting the nuclear talks. And when Tehran talks about the beginning of the end at the level of the nuclear issue, which has been impossible to resolve throughout many years, one can detect the imminence of the deal that was always linked to questions and suspicions surrounding prices and who exactly will pay them. There are many signs that can be seen prior to the Baghdad nuclear round at the end of May, including the following:

- The political clash between Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Baghdad’s and Ankara’s exchange of protests after Erdogan accused al-Maliki of adopting a sectarian approach and after the latter talked about a hostile Turkey.
- The more al-Maliki grows closer to the Iranians, the more the President of the Kurdistan Region Massoud Barzani tends to consider Turkey as being the province’s lung and attempts to reassure it, while reiterating his threats in regard to the Iraqi Kurds’ secession into their own state after he has become convinced that it would be impossible to coexist with what he perceives as being al-Maliki’s deceit.
- Iran’s use of the “deal” phase was translated into an escalation at the level of its occupation of the Emirati Islands, i.e. the Greater Tunb, the Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa, following President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to the latter, the announcement of the deployment of Iranian Navy forces in the Islands and the engagement of the Gulf Cooperation Council with a defiant tone.
- Tehran’s reception of al-Maliki a few days ago and the calls for full unity between Iraq and Iran. This unity would revive the Shiite Crescent proposal which includes the two countries alongside Syria and Lebanon, in parallel to what the Syrian crisis is featuring in terms of provocative signs to the beat of the killing that differentiates between a victim and another and the repercussions it is carrying on Lebanon and Iraq.

On the sidelines of the conflict over Syria, the fears of Iraq’s Kurds over a state of rivalry with and apprehension vis-à-vis Ankara have moved to a stage of doubts surrounding the outcome of Iran’s protection of al-Maliki’s authority, one which is perceived as being another copy of the Iraqi Baath’s dictatorship, but in the context of a doctrinal affiliation with the Velayat-e Faqih [Clerical rule in Iran] this time.

While Erdogan’s reception of Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, who is wanted by the security apparatuses in Baghdad, gave the impression that the Sunni Ankara was supporting al-Maliki’s Sunni opponents, Barzani’s statements yesterday to the Associated Press appeared to be a deadline given to the central government in Baghdad until September, i.e. the date of the elections in the Kurdistan province, to adopt difficult solutions to the disputes with the partners in the State of Law Coalition. Although this deadline-warning is hastening the option of the independent Kurdish state that is allied with Ankara, based on the right to self-determination (the South Sudanese style), it is fueling al-Maliki’s inclination to seek Tehran’s protection rather than convincing him to relinquish it to protect Iraq’s unity. Between the prime minister of the central government and the president of the province that is reconciled with Ankara, one can detect the dispute over the oil contracts and Barzani’s fear of seeing the regional equations turning in favor of Tehran, as this would place its allies and agents in a position of alliance with the West, which would have no problem sacrificing the old allies.

Syria is the arena of an international conflict which is exhausting it. While one of its facets is pressing on the veins of the old alliance between Damascus and Tehran, this might encourage Khamenei to accept a deal with the superpowers to save face for the Iranian regime via a nuclear concession, and a Syrian one in exchange for regional gains. This is exactly what is provoking the fears of the Turks and the Iraqi Kurds, and leaving Ankara with no other option but to confront Iranian influence by proxy, on an arena extending between the Tigris and the Euphrates. What is certain is that Khamenei’s wish for al-Maliki to have a “brighter Iraq” will not be enough to immunize Baghdad against Barzani’s rebellion against the dictatorial authority, and will not encourage the Prime Minister to wage comprehensive war against the Sunni-Turkish axis. [Arabiya newspaper]


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