Analysis: Why is Türkiye-Iraq cooperation a win-win formula? - M5 Dergi
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Analysis: Why is Türkiye-Iraq cooperation a win-win formula?

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Türkiye is keen on cultivating practical relationships with both the federal government and regional actors in Iraq, highlighting the importance of mutual respect and vision.

Following Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan’s visit to Baghdad, developments indicate that Türkiye is nearing a major milestone in its fight against PKK terrorism. The establishment of a wide-ranging cooperative framework, which includes aspects of security, energy, water, education, and trade, is being integrated into the bilateral relations between Ankara and Baghdad, offering a mutually beneficial strategy. This momentum is anticipated to culminate in a formal agreement during Türkiye’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s scheduled visit to Iraq after Ramadan.

PUK must make a true decision

The inclusion of the PKK in Iraq’s National Security Council’s list of banned organizations [1] at this stage was an important signal for the continuation of the cooperative spirit.

Ankara has recognized the escalating activities of the PKK within Sulaymaniyah, a city governed by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), for some time. Crucially, the space and liberty offered to the terrorist organization in this area are significantly influenced by PUK leader Bafel Talabani’s favorable connections with the PKK terrorist group and related terrorist factions, a stance he has openly and unreservedly expressed. [2]

The targeted new dynamism in Ankara-Baghdad relations offers numerous benefits for both Türkiye’s national interests in terms of counterterrorism efforts while providing diplomatic, political, and economic gains for Iraq’s national interests. At this point, PUK is forced to make a choice. As long as it continues its relations with PKK/YPG/PYD terrorism, it will create an insurmountable gap between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Baghdad, and Ankara. Especially given the region’s past conflicts [3] with Baghdad regarding oil extraction, exports, and receiving a share from the federal budget, any further disagreement will only be self-damaging, as it knows how the disruption of social services and unpaid salaries led to a debt crisis that undermined its de facto autonomy aspirations on the international stage. Engagement with Baghdad is, therefore, not just an option but a necessity for the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) as well.

PUK’s affiliation with PKK: A detrimental alliance

Ankara-Baghdad cooperation is also crucial for the future of the Development Road Project. [4] Joint steps to establish regional security will not only secure the land connectivity from Al Faw Port to Türkiye’s Ovakoy but also increase investor confidence, boosting global interest in the project’s promising ambitions for regional connectivity that aim to bridge Iraq with Western markets.

If KRG takes concrete steps regarding its legitimate concerns about combating terrorism, it will see Türkiye as a supportive ally that has both experience and capacity to pursue cooperative engagement with its allies. Recalling recent developments when Turkish airspace was closed [5], leading to a substantial financial impact on the KRG as air traffic to Sulaymaniyah Airport was significantly disrupted, is important.

Additionally, there are allegations of support for the PKK terrorist group within the voter base of the PUK, and Talabani has indicated that maintaining positive relations with the terrorist organization is motivated by this sentiment. [6] However, the missing point here is that voters will not unconditionally support PUK based solely on their alleged ideological affiliation if they experience deadlocks in basic social services and infrastructure. It is known that growing terrorist organization PKK activity and freedom in Iraqi KRG are severely threatening [7] social activity in the region due to its controls at some checkpoints, the prevention of farmers from accessing their lands, and the kidnapping of civilians. Therefore, as long as PUK antagonizes Baghdad in this dynamic cooperation process with Ankara by offering a lifeline to the PKK terrorist organization, it is destined to become a more marginal, less capable, and irresponsible political actor and stakeholder in the region.

In light of recent events, it is also pertinent to highlight the opportunistic advantage that befell the PUK following the KDP’s declaration of a boycott of the parliamentary elections. The PUK administration, aiming to increase its weight in the KRG with the withdrawal of its biggest rival, must understand that increased political instability and chaos in such cases will not benefit anyone, as seen in the 2022 Muqtada al-Sadr episode. Another point is that even if PUK gains weight in KRG with the KDP’s boycott, electoral victory alone will not mean anything without economic power, and charting a political future without financial clout will be pointless.

Ankara-Baghdad collaboration gains all of the Middle East

In essence, the burgeoning Ankara-Baghdad collaboration promises significant long-term gains. From the Turkish vantage point, enhanced military cooperation and intelligence sharing will quell PKK terrorism. Simultaneously, Ankara-Baghdad cooperation will contribute to Iraq’s military modernization and regional connectivity goals, boosting its posture in the Middle East.

These lasting advantages are set to serve as cornerstone elements in Iraq’s state-building efforts post-2005. Türkiye is keen on cultivating practical relationships with both the federal government and regional actors in Iraq, highlighting the importance of mutual respect and vision.

Thus, it is essential to recognize that any immediate benefits derived from associations with terrorist organizations, as seen in cases like the PUK, will ultimately be counterproductive, especially when dealing with a powerful neighbor such as Türkiye.

Source: AA / TRT World Research Center

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