Novinar kurdskog servisa Glasa Amerike: Turski napad na Kurde daje šanse za jačanje ISIL-a

Mutlu Civiroglu, novinar kurdske redakcije Glasa Amerike, govori o ofanzivi turskih snaga prema dijelu Sirije u kojem uglavnom žive Kurdi. Prema njegovim riječima, Kurdi se zbog povlačenja SAD-a, koje je i dovelo da turskog napada, osjećaju izdani, a na to gledaju kao na odluku Donalda Trumpa. Civiroglu kaže da su sada povećane šanse za jačanje ISIL-a.

 

https://ba.voanews.com/a/novinar-kurdskog-servisa-glasa-amerike-turski-napad-na-kurde-daje-%C5%A1anse-za-ja%C4%8Danje-isil-a/5119756.html

 

 

 

‘A bloody conflict’: Trump’s actions in Syria will have long-term consequences

Kurds call it a stab in the back: chaos to come will have many participants

Local Officials: IS Women in Syria’s al-Hol Camp Pose Security Risk

Citing an escalation of violence by Islamic State-affiliated women, supervisors at the al-Hol camp in northeastern Syria are calling on the international community to find a solution for thousands of such women and children who are being held at the overcrowded refugee camp. VOA’s Mutlu Civiroglu reports from the al-Hol camp.

https://www.voanews.com/episode/local-officials-women-syrias-al-hol-camp-pose-security-risk-4047491

IS Foreign Women Smuggled Out in Northeastern Syria Camp

In this Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019, photo, women who recently returned from Al-Hol camp, which holds families of Islamic State members, gather in the courtyard of their home in Raqqa, Syria, during an interview. The Kurdish-led administration has…FILE – Women who recently returned from the Al-Hol camp, which holds families of Islamic State members, gather in the courtyard of their home in Raqqa, Syria, during an interview, Sept. 7, 2019.

WASHINGTON – A group of intruders who disguised themselves as security forces protecting al-Hol refugee camp in northeastern Syria have helped smuggle out several women affiliated with the Islamic State (IS) fighters, local authorities told VOA.

“Some smugglers put on SDF uniforms or security police outfits, and they helped some IS women escape the camp for money,” said Judy Serbilind, who monitors IS female affiliates detained at the overcrowded camp.

Serbilind refused to disclose the number of the escaped women but said there were dozens. She said most of them came from outside of Syria, particularly from Europe.

“We believe that they fled to Idlib then to Turkey. We think some of them might reach out to the embassies of their countries and some (will) stay in Turkey.”

Al-Hol is a makeshift encampment set up for those who were displaced during the war against IS in eastern Syrian province of Dir el-Zour. The camp’s population skyrocketed from about 10,000 refugees in December 2018 to over 70,000 by April 2019 following a U.S.-led operation that defeated IS from its last stronghold of Baghouz.

After several escape incidents, fearing a larger attempt by IS to infiltrate the camp, Kurdish-led security forces who guard the camp promptly increased their numbers around the area, Serbilind told VOA. To ease burden on the overloaded camp, management also released dozens of Syrian women with IS affiliation to their families and tribes provided that their families guarantee they will not go back to the militant group.

According to Human Rights Watch, more than 11,000 of people in the camp are foreign women and children related to IS.

Local Officials: IS Women in Syria’s al-Hol Camp Pose Security Risk

Daily Incidents

Syrian Kurdish officials in the past have said they were holding hundreds of foreign fighters in their prisons, along with thousands of their wives and children from 44 countries. The officials said they were overwhelmed by the burden and asked the countries to retake their nationals.

At al-Hol camp, officials say they are struggling to control order as reports of arguments, fights, stabbing and even murders are on the rise. Many of these issues go unresolved due to the lack of professional personnel and as camp officials prioritize more urgent needs such as food and water.

Last July, a pregnant Indonesian woman believed to be affiliated with IS was found dead in the camp. Local security forces said an autopsy showed the woman was murdered and her body showed signs of torture.

Serbilind said that the supervisors and security forces report the IS women as saying they want to re-establish an Islamic State inside the camp. She said large blades and knives were banned from entering the site. Nevertheless, two security officers were recently stabbed by IS affiliated women using kitchen knives.

“They are also threatening to revolt once Turkey carries out its threats of crossing the borders to Eastern Euphrates,” Serbilindadded, referring to Turkey’s announced intention to enter northeastern Syria to go after the Kurdish fighters if a “safe-zone” agreement with the U.S. is not implemented.

Ankara considers Kurdish YPG group a terrorist organization and an extension of the Turkish-based Kurdistan Workers Party. But Washington considers the YPG a key ally in the fight against IS and disagrees with Ankara on the linkage.

A Time Bomb

The desperate situation of al-Hol camp has long triggered international attention, with many aid organizations warning the site could be the birthplace of IS’s revenge generation.

UN-appointed Commission of Inquiry on Syria earlier this month reported that the situation in the camp was “appalling,” urging international community to take action. The investigators said most of the 3,500 children held there lacked birth registration and risked statelessness as their countries of origin were unwilling to repatriate them, fearing extremist links.

An IS propaganda video that circulated among the group’s social media users recently showed a group of women allegedly sending a message from the camp.   The black-veiled women vowed to revive the so-called caliphate which was announced defeated in March after losing its final stronghold of Baghouz.

“We ask that were you able to contain the Mujahideen’s women that you are keeping in your rot camp? We tell you no, they are now a ticking bomb,” one of the IS women is shown as saying in the video.

Some researchers believe that women themselves may not be able to actively participate in a possible resurgence of IS, but their extreme viewpoints could encourage sympathizers around the world and affect the future of their children.

“I think that the danger lies in their ability to ensure that the next generation are raised with really radical viewpoints,” said Mia Bloom, a professor of communications and Middle Eastern studies at Georgia State University.

“The danger is less from the women themselves than the women are able to perpetuate the conflict moving to the next new phase,” Bloom told VOA.

UN’s Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee in a report earlier this year warned that IS could morph from a territorial entity into a covert network. The report added that the terror group is “in a phase of transition, adaptation and consolidation, seeking to create the conditions for a resurgence.”

According to Bloom of Georgia State University, the threat of IS re-emergence will remain until the international community shows enough political will to deal with the root causes of extremism that originally led to the rise of the group.

“Until we address these underlying issues, there will always be recruitment opportunities for Jihadists and extremists who exploit that fact that the international community won’t do anything to halt the violence by corrupt regimes and restore justice for civilians,” Bloom concluded.

Nisan Ahmado, Mutlu Civiroglu

https://www.voanews.com/extremism-watch/foreign-women-smuggled-out-northeastern-syria-camp

The distant dream of a secure safe zone in northern Syria

On January 13, U.S. President Donald Trump proposed, in an ambiguous tweet, the creation of a 20-mile safe zone in northern Syria.

Almost 10 days later there is still considerable confusion over what exactly it means and how it might be implemented. The Turkish government wants the area cleared of Syrian Kurdish forces, for instance, while Syrian Kurds oppose any Turkish role. And will it be primarily a Turkish venture, or might the United States spearhead its creation?

Ankara’s preferred safe zone is one that is free of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), Syrian Kurdish fighters that make up the bulk of the multi-ethnic Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that with U.S. help have largely defeated Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria. The Turkish government says the YPG is as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that has been fighting for Kurdish self-rule inside Turkey since 1984.

“The leaks about the buffer zone are unworkable,” Aaron Stein, director of the Middle East programme at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, told Ahval News. “This is going to be fraught and tenuous.”

“I have a hard time accepting why the SDF would choose the U.S. proposal over the [Syrian] regime alternative, and how Moscow could then blow all this up,” he said, referring to talks the Syrian Kurds began with Damascus following Trump’s Dec. 19 announcement he was pulling the U.S.’ 2,000 troops from Syria. The Kurds hope that by ceding their border regions with Turkey to Damascus they can prevent President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s threatened offensive.

Syrian Kurdish authorities have affirmed they will support the creation of a buffer zone if established and run by the United Nations or the U.S.-led coalition. But UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said the UN had no plans to participate in the creation of such a safe zone.

The Kurds adamantly oppose any Turkish involvement in the safe zone.

“We really need a safe zone, but without Turkish fingers,” Salih Muslim, former co-leader of the political wing of the YPG, told Kurdistan 24. “We want a safe area with an air embargo. There must be no role for Turkey.”

Any safe zone that is 20-miles deep along the northern Syrian border would include all the major Kurdish cities in Syria.

“The problem with the buffer zone is that there is little information on how the U.S. expects to keep Turkey from attacking and destroying the SDF,” said Nicholas Heras, Middle East Security Fellow at the Center for a New American Security. “This is the heart of the matter because Turkey’s vision for the buffer zone is for the Turkish military to control the major Kurdish population centres in northeast Syria.”

“A large component of the SDF comes from these Kurdish areas, and it is to be expected that the SDF would fight Turkey, rather than be dismantled by it,” he said. “The buffer zone concept was supposed to achieve a deal between Turkey and the SDF that allows for power sharing in northeast Syria, as a way to prevent disastrous conflict between Turkey and the Syrian Kurds. Any plan to allow Turkey to control the Kurdish areas of northeast Syria will force the SDF into conflict with Turkey because the SDF is existentially threatened by Turkey.”

Heras said the SDF was trying to reach an agreement with Russia and Syrian President Bashar Assad to prevent Turkey seizing land in Syria.

Yaşar Yakış, a Turkish former foreign minister, believes the terms buffer/safe zone are vague.

“A safe zone as it is conceived by Turkey is difficult to set up in northeast Syria. Russia, Iran, the U.S. and many members of the international community will have to be persuaded for it,” Yakış said.

He said Turkey had no means of persuading the SDF to peacefully leave the area.

“However, it may dare to achieve it by using its military power, without persuasion,” Yakış suggested. “If Turkey succeeds in persuading the U.S., Washington has the means to force the YPG to establish a safe zone. But if this is going to be a safe zone with international legitimacy, it has to be sanctioned by a U.N. Security Council resolution, which means that the permanent members of the Security Council – Russia, China, France and the UK – also have to be persuaded.”

Turkey fears the creation of a safe zone similar to the one in northern Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War, which led to Iraqi Kurds achieving autonomy, he said.

“This will be considered a nightmare by Turkey, as it is vehemently opposed to the emergence of any type of Kurdish entity in the north of Syria,” Yakış said.

Mutlu Civiroglu, a Syria and Kurdish affairs analyst, said Trump’s tweet suggested a preference for protecting Syrian Kurds before mentioning the 20-mile safe zone.

“It’s not clear what it really means,” he said. “Assuming the buffer zone is something the U.S. is going to initiate to protect Kurds, that would be positive and would be accepted by Kurds and their allies.”

Russia could stymie the creation of such a zone though, Civiroglu said.

“Moscow can certainly undermine not only this safe zone, but also any development in Syria since it has the power,” he said. “Its move will depend on the details. Russia has the power and capability of preventing or shaping the steps taken by Turkey, the Syrian government and any other player.”

Mustafa Gurbuz, a non-resident fellow at the Arab Center in Washington, said the United States had engaged in dual discourse by promising Turkey a safe zone along its southern border on the one hand and promising Syrian Kurds protection from any potential Turkish attack on the other.

“YPG leaders will not retreat in a silent matter,” he said. “The YPG will exploit U.S.-Russia competition to prevent the Turkish safe zone and, in the case of Turkey-Russia agreement, may use its ties with the Assad regime. Thus, it’s a troubling case for Turkey.”

Paul Iddon

https://ahvalnews.com/buffer-zone/distant-dream-secure-safe-zone-northern-syria

Erdogan, Trump agree to avoid power vacuum in Syria

Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed Sunday to prevent a power vacuum in Syria after U.S. ground forces withdraw, in a phone conversation days after the U.S. president shocked global partners by announcing Americans would leave the war-scarred country.
Turkey was a rare ally that lauded Trump’s momentous decision to pull the 2,000 U.S. troops out of Syria, where they have been helping assisting in a multinational fight against ISIL.
“The two leaders agreed to ensure coordination between their countries’ military, diplomatic and other officials to avoid a power vacuum which could result following any abuse of the withdrawal and transition phase in Syria,” the Turkish presidency said in a statement.
Hours earlier Trump had tweeted that he and Erdogan “discussed ISIL, our mutual involvement in Syria, & the slow & highly coordinated pullout of U.S. troops from the area.” Erdogan tweeted shortly thereafter, saying the two leaders “agreed to increase coordination on many issues including trade relations and the developments in Syria,” dubbing the call “productive.”
U.S. troops will leave under the auspices of a new Pentagon chief set to start next month, after Jim Mattis resigned from the post citing key differences, including on Syria, with the often-impulsive Trump.
An American exit would allow Turkish troops to move against Kurdish fighters in Syria who have played a key role in the war against ISIL but are deemed terrorists by Ankara. Many U.S. politicians and international allies fear the withdrawal is premature and would further destabilize the already devastated region.
A U.S. withdrawal, said Mutlu Civiroglu, a Kurdish affairs analyst, will open the way “for Turkey to start its operations against the Kurds, and a bloody war will begin.”
French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday said he “deeply regretted” Trump’s decision, and that “an ally must be reliable.” Several U.S. politicians from both parties rejected Trump’s claim that ISIL had been defeated, and many in the US military expressed alarm and dismay at the thought of suddenly abandoning Washington’s Kurdish partners.
And Trump’s sudden decision sparked turmoil within his administration, prompting the resignation of Mattis as well as of Brett McGurk, the special envoy to the anti-ISIL coalition.
Plans for the troop withdrawal will now be overseen by Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, who Trump on Sunday said would replace Mattis starting January 1.
Source(s): AFP

Erdogan, Trump agree to avoid power vacuum in Syria

Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed Sunday to prevent a power vacuum in Syria after U.S. ground forces withdraw, in a phone conversation days after the U.S. president shocked global partners by announcing Americans would leave the war-scarred country.

Turkey was a rare ally that lauded Trump’s momentous decision to pull the 2,000 U.S. troops out of Syria, where they have been helping assisting in a multinational fight against ISIL.

“The two leaders agreed to ensure coordination between their countries’ military, diplomatic and other officials to avoid a power vacuum which could result following any abuse of the withdrawal and transition phase in Syria,” the Turkish presidency said in a statement.

Hours earlier Trump had tweeted that he and Erdogan “discussed ISIL, our mutual involvement in Syria, & the slow & highly coordinated pullout of U.S. troops from the area.” Erdogan tweeted shortly thereafter, saying the two leaders “agreed to increase coordination on many issues including trade relations and the developments in Syria,” dubbing the call “productive.”

U.S. troops will leave under the auspices of a new Pentagon chief set to start next month, after Jim Mattis resigned from the post citing key differences, including on Syria, with the often-impulsive Trump.

An American exit would allow Turkish troops to move against Kurdish fighters in Syria who have played a key role in the war against ISIL but are deemed terrorists by Ankara. Many U.S. politicians and international allies fear the withdrawal is premature and would further destabilize the already devastated region.

A U.S. withdrawal, said Mutlu Civiroglu, a Kurdish affairs analyst, will open the way “for Turkey to start its operations against the Kurds, and a bloody war will begin.”

French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday said he “deeply regretted” Trump’s decision, and that “an ally must be reliable.” Several U.S. politicians from both parties rejected Trump’s claim that ISIL had been defeated, and many in the US military expressed alarm and dismay at the thought of suddenly abandoning Washington’s Kurdish partners.

And Trump’s sudden decision sparked turmoil within his administration, prompting the resignation of Mattis as well as of Brett McGurk, the special envoy to the anti-ISIL coalition.

Plans for the troop withdrawal will now be overseen by Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, who Trump on Sunday said would replace Mattis starting January 1.

Source(s): AFP

Winners and Losers in Trump’s Planned Troop Withdrawal From Syria

Kurdish residents of Amuda in northeastern Syria. One holds a flag of Abdullah Ocalan, the founder of the separatist Kurdish Workers' Party.
Credit…Mauricio Lima for The New York Times

President Trump’s decision this week to withdraw all American troops from Syria within 30 days risks leaving United States’ allies in the long-running war weakened while strengthening rivals backed by Iran and Russia.

American troops entered Syria in 2015 as part of a coalition fighting the Islamic State, which had seized large swaths of territory in Syria and Iraq. In the three years since, the extremist group’s self-declared caliphate has crumbled. But the continuing lack of stability in both Syria and Iraq could provide fertile ground for the jihadists to retrench.

The American pullout could also weaken the country’s influence over any negotiations on a settlement to end the conflict.

“The leverage that might have been there for the United States in Syria is no longer there because now everyone knows that the United States will leave Syria unconditionally,” said Joost Hiltermann, the Middle East director of the International Crisis Group, a conflict and foreign policy research organization.

Here are some of the parties to the conflict that have the most to gain or lose from an American withdrawal.

President Bashar al-Assad and his chief international backers, Russia and Iran, would all benefit from an American troop withdrawal, which would further tighten Mr. Assad’s once-tenuous grip on his battered country.

Iran is one of the biggest winners as the international ally with the most invested in Syria and the most at stake. During the war, Iran embedded itself in Syria, redrawing the strategic map of the Middle East.

It has sent in thousands of Shiite forces, who fought on the ground, and deployed drones and precision weapons to keep Mr. Assad in power. That secured an all-important land bridge through Syria to supply weapons to Hezbollah, Iran’s Shiite militia ally in Lebanon and a steadfast enemy of Israel.

Iran trained and equipped Shiite fighters while strengthening ties with allies in Iraq and Lebanon in hopes of building a united front in the event of a new war with Israel.

Russia also stands to benefit. A day after Mr. Trump’s announcement on Wednesday, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia applauded the decision, saying during a news conference, “Donald’s right, and I agree with him.”

Credit…Alexander Nemenov/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Russia contributed around 5,000 troops and a few dozen aircraft to prop up Mr. Assad’s government, which secured Moscow’s strategically important naval facility in the Syrian city of Tartus on the Mediterranean Sea. Russia also expanded its military footprint in Syria during the war.

“It certainly helps the Russians, who have benefited tremendously from a quite limited investment in Syria,” said Jon B. Alterman, director and senior fellow of the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Through its alliance with Syria, Russia has maintained its influence in the Middle East.

“They re-established themselves as a global player when the conclusion had been that the glory days of the Soviet Union were dead and gone,” Mr. Alterman said.

For Mr. Assad, the American withdrawal means the path forward for Syria will be shaped largely by forces sympathetic to his government and its interests.

The two biggest threats to his leadership have been substantially neutralized — the myriad rebel groups that tried to overthrow the Syrian government and the Islamic State — the latter thanks largely to the military force brought to bear by the American-led international coalition that fought the militants.

Turkey and the United States, NATO allies, have frequently found themselves at odds in Syria, even though both opposed Mr. Assad. That is because the United States backed a mostly Kurdish force in Syria, saying they were the fighters most capable of pushing back the Islamic State.

Turkey has long battled Kurdish separatists at home in the country’s southeast and saw the rising power of Kurds along its border in northern Syria as a threat. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey recently threatened military intervention against the Kurdish forces in Syria that Washington has backed since 2015.

The exit of American troops would leave Turkey open to taking action to curb the power of Kurdish forces in Syria.

Credit…Bulent Kilic/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“We have won against ISIS,” Mr. Trump declared in a video that was published on Wednesday. But experts, including some of Mr. Trump’s own staff and coalition partners, disagree.

Though the militants retain just 1 percent of the territory they held at the height of power, this would remove a major military adversary in the region. During a State Department briefing on Dec. 11, Brett McGurk, Mr. Trump’s special envoy in the fight against the Islamic State, said the battle was not over.

“The end of ISIS will be a much more long-term initiative,” Mr. McGurk said. “Nobody is declaring a mission accomplished.”

Despite being America’s key allies in the fight against the Islamic State, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces are being virtually abandoned, critics of the withdrawal say. The Kurds have relied on American support, and a sudden withdrawal could be disastrous, leaving them exposed from all sides.

The Syrian Democratic Forces denounced the withdrawal in a statement on Thursday.

“The White House’s decision to withdraw from northern and eastern Syria will negatively affect the campaign against terrorism,” the group said. “The fight against terrorism is not over yet, and the final defeat of terrorism has not come yet.”

The group warned that the move would create a “political-military vacuum” that would allow the Islamic State to thrive again.

Kurdish forces are likely to lose territory and control as a result of Mr. Trump’s decision.

“Kurds and their allies have paid a very heavy price,” said Mutlu Civiroglu, a Washington-based Kurdish affairs analyst. “They have fought on the front line, and thousands of Kurdish men and women lost their lives fighting on behalf of the entire world.”

He said many now feel betrayed: “They feel like all the efforts are about to go in vain.”

Kurdish fighters who have battled the Islamic State in Syria.
Credit…Mauricio Lima for The New York Times

As the Kurds — a stateless and often marginalized group — took back territory from Islamic State forces in northern Syria, they worked to created an autonomous region.

A newly empowered Iran with unfettered land access to their Hezbollah allies — without American forces in the north of Syria as a counterweight — poses an existential threat to Israel.

“Israel will be very unhappy about this because they see it as a net gain for Iran, and they are right,” Mr. Hiltermann said.

As Israel’s most powerful ally, the United States plays an outsize role in security for the country, and the withdrawal of troops could threaten that balance.

Civilians have borne the brunt of the conflict in Syria for years, with millions displaced from their homes and millions more who fled the country struggling abroad as refugees.

Aid groups warn that further destabilization of northern Syrian could spark yet another humanitarian disaster in the region.

A paramedic carried an injured child after Syrian and Russian forces struck the rebel-held town of Hamouria.
Credit…Abdulmonam Eassa/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The International Rescue Committee, which has been working to provide humanitarian assistance in parts of Syria for years, warned that a potential Turkish offensive in the region could be devastating.

“Throughout this conflict, these political and military decisions have been made without any apparent consideration of the humanitarian consequences. As a result, every decision has heightened the danger and distress for civilians,” said David Miliband, president of the International Rescue Committee.

Many Kurdish civilians would likely flee the area if the Kurdish militias lose control of northern Syria.

“There will be a humanitarian crisis, there is no question,” Mr. Hiltermann said.

By 

Turkey-KRG relations one year after Kurdish independence vote

More than a year after Iraqi Kurdistan’s referendum on independence soured hitherto good ties with Turkey, relations are still very significant, particularly on the economic front. However, analysts anticipate that political relations are unlikely to once again become as close and cordial as they were before that referendum.

“Considering its current economic crisis resuming close economic relations with Iraqi Kurdistan, as they existed in the pre-referendum era, will be good for Turkey,” Mutlu Çiviroğlu, a Syria and Kurdish affairs analyst, told Ahval.

“I don’t think politically Turkey’s relations will be as they used to be, especially with Masoud Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP),” he said, referring to the former president of the Iraqi Kurdistan region. “But economically Turkey would like to take advantage of the region. Many Turkish companies have been very active in Kurdistan, especially in the western parts of the region where the KDP is the predominant party. To some extent, this is continuing and will likely continue and even get stronger since the Kurdistan region is too important economically for Turkey to ignore or let go.”

Economic ties between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and Turkey continued throughout the tense months following the referendum. While Ankara harshly condemned the KRG it never closed its border crossings with it in order to blockade the region, which Iran did from September 2017 to January 2018.

Joel Wing, an Iraq analyst and author of Musings on Iraq, believes that Ankara and the KRG “are set to repair their relationship” one year after it became strained during the referendum.

“While Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was angry at the vote, he didn’t put as many sanctions on the KRG as he could have,” Wing told Ahval. “Given that it was only natural that the two would eventually move back together.”

At present, economic ties between the KRG and Turkey are still very significant. Turkey’s pro-government Daily Sabah newspaper reported this month that Turkey would “undertake the lion’s share of infrastructure projects in northern Iraq”.

Turkey and the KRG also agreed to open a new international border crossing between the two, the first with the Kurdish province of Erbil, where the autonomous region’s capital city is located.

“Two weeks ago there was an underground tunnel built in the Iraqi Kurdish border city of Zakho by a Turkish company,” Çiviroğlu said. Iraqi Kurdistan regional Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani “is very keen to improve relations and open doors for Turkish companies, construction and other, in the region. As a result, we can see the continuation of economic relations and maybe even improvement of relations overall.”

Wing agreed that Kurdistan was an important economic partner that Turkey did not want to lose.

For Turkey, the KDP, the predominant Kurdish party in Iraqi Kurdistan’s western Erbil and Duhok provinces, remains “an important ally within Iraq and a counter to other Kurdish groups in the region”, Wing said.

“For the KDP, it’s of utmost importance to maintain this ally as the KRG is economically dependent upon its northern neighbour for its oil exports, trade, and investment,” Wing said. “The referendum was more of a bump in the road than a lasting break between the two.”

Bilal Wahab, the Nathan and Esther K. Wagner Fellow at the Washington Institute think-tank, where his focus is on KRG governance, also sees the Turkish-KRG relationship improving, but does not see it reverting to its pre-referendum heights.

“Turkish-Iraq economic and security relations are improving, which enables Turkey to be less dependent on the KRG,” Wahab told Ahval.

Wahab is also sceptical that economic relations will return to pre-referendum heights since the KRG will no longer be the exclusive Iraqi market for Turkish investors.

In the immediate aftermath of the Kurdish referendum, Turkey’s ultra-conservative press reported that Ankara was contemplating opening a new border crossing near the village of Ovaköy, where the borders of Turkey, Iraq and Syria meet, to bypass and economically isolate the KRG, and trade directly with Iraq.

Ankara is exploring the feasibility of opening a crossing in that area today. Given that relations have thawed significantly since last year it is much less likely that Turkey is now seeking to isolate the KRG economically. It is more likely trying to lessen its sole dependence on that autonomous region for trade with the rest of Iraq. At present, it is unclear if this project will actually get off the ground anytime soon since the KRG still controls all of Iraq’s border with Turkey.

Çiviroğlu does not see military and political relations between Ankara and Erbil improving anytime soon.

“In Turkey, there have been calls to carry out more operations against PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) bases in Iraqi Kurdistan,” he said. “This may lead to Turkey trying to get the KDP to help them in such an operation. Although this will unlikely be possible in the near future since Kurds are more careful not to allow themselves to fight one and another.”

Another major hurdle in the way of restoring Turkish-KRG relations to pre-referendum levels was the political fallout and the harsh words Erdoğan used against then Iraqi Kurdistan President Masoud Barzani.

“The referendum in the mindset of Turkish leaders was a betrayal by Barzani, and Iraqi Kurds generally, so maybe political relations will never be as good as before,” Çiviroğlu said. “But still I think compared to Turkish and Syrian Kurds the Iraqi Kurds comparatively still enjoy better relations.”

Of course, compared to the PKK and other Kurdish groups that Turkey opposes outright the KDP will always be a favourable choice for Ankara and economic relations will likely endure.

The relationship between Turkey and the KDP is also much more cordial than the one between Ankara and the Patriotic Union Party (PUK), the most powerful party in Iraqi Kurdistan after the KDP.

In August 2017 Ankara expelled PUK representatives from Turkey after the PKK kidnapped Turkish intelligence agents in Sulaimani province, the PUK’s main stronghold in Iraqi Kurdistan. Furthermore, while Turkey opened its airspace to Erbil International Airport, following Baghdad’s lifting of the post-referendum flight ban over the Kurdistan region’s airspace in March, it has not yet done the same for Sulaimani International Airport.

“The KRG is not the united front it once was, whereby the PUK’s relationship with the PKK is not the same as the KDP’s,” said Wahab. “This manifests in Turkey banning its flagship airlines from flying to Sulaimani.”

Çiviroğlu sees Turkey’s refusal to reopen its airspace to air traffic going to Sulaimani as “an indicator of Turkish anger and displeasure with the PUK.”

He said the “PUK’s warm relations with Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan) and HDP (Peoples’ Democratic Party) in Turkey, and generally with the PKK, makes the PUK less favourable to Turkey.”

But now that Iraq is working to establish a new government, in which there has been consensus “about the designated prime minister, speaker of parliament and Barham Salih being elected president there is some gradual optimism in Baghdad”, he said.

In light of these developments, Çiviroğlu does not believe that Ankara would try to be a spoiler, “but instead may try and use these changes for its advantage, especially Barham Salih becoming president.”

Ankara may also “use these developments to reset relations with Iraq generally and the Kurdistan region in particular, especially Sulaimani which has been suffering from Turkey’s closure of its airspace,” Çiviroğlu said.

The selection of Salih, a long-time PUK member, as Iraqi president was warmly welcomed by Ankara. İlnur Çevik, an advisor to Erdoğan, described Salih as a good ally of Turkey.

“Dr. Barham has always appreciated the importance of Turkey and has cherished the friendship of Ankara. Now we have a good ally in Baghdad just like Mam Jalal,” Çevik said in a recent editorial. Mam Jalal – Kurdish for ‘Uncle Jalal’ – is an endearing term many Kurds call the late former Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, who was also the leader of the PUK.

Such sentiments could signify that relations between Ankara and the PUK will be restored in the foreseeable future.

Wahab reasoned that while thawing the frozen relations between Ankara and the PUK “would be an opportunity for President Salih” he also argued that “what factors greater into PUK’s calculation of cosier relations with the PKK is its rivalry with the KDP – one that has heightened since the referendum and recently over Iraq’s presidency and election results.”

The KDP had sought to have its own candidate, Fuad Hussein, run as the next president of Iraq, a position traditionally reserved for the PUK, but lost that bid to Salih.

While Turkey’s relationship with Iraqi Kurdistan successfully endured the worst crisis since its establishment a decade ago, it still has some ways to go before it completely normalises.

Paul Iddon

https://ahvalnews.com/turkey-krg/turkey-krg-relations-one-year-after-kurdish-independence-vote