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Turkey Backs the Kurds…in Iraq

If he were still alive, Saddam Hussein would probably be rolling in his spider hole to hear that Turkey is beginning to embrace Massoud Barzani’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq. This represents a reversal after years of support for Baghdad in their shared struggle against Kurdish separatist groups.

Now Ankara and the KRG are discussing plans to have a Turkish company drill for oil and gas in Iraqi Kurdistan and build the pipelines to get the resulting energy supplies to Europe. The Washington Post reports:

“We are having serious discussions with the [Turkish] company,” said Nechirvan Barzani, prime minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government. “We hope they participate in the region.”

The Turkish government has not made a final decision. Energy Minister Taner Yildiz is leading a review of the deal, according to senior Turkish officials, and expects to issue a formal recommendation to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, the Maliki government in Iraq has been conspicuously absent from the talks. Some speculate that this may be due in part to his close relationship with Iran, Turkey’s chief regional rival. In the emerging cold war between Ankara and Tehran, a strong KRG in Iraq could be a strategic asset for Turkey.

A Turkish-Kurdish relationship would cause a lot of concern in Tehran as well as Baghdad. Iran’s Kurds are restive, and with Kurds reaching for power in Syria and consolidating quasi-independence in Iraq, the Kurds in Iran must be wondering if at long last the Kurds have a shot at real freedom.

The Turkish-Kurdish honeymoon will hit some hard times before long no doubt; issues in Syria and Turkey itself are sure to test the limits of the entente. But the kaleidoscope of Middle East politics continues to turn with dizzying speed, revealing new and shifting patterns day by day.

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