The Iraqi Prime Minister Al-Kadhimi’s Visit to Turkey
The visit of the Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi to Ankara on December 17 is an important development, in terms of bilateral and regional relations. First of all, with Prime Minister Al-Kadhimi; it should be remembered that he was elected as prime minister in May, despite the objection of some of the Hashd Shaabi groups, after the murder of two top-level names in Iraqi politics, as Qasem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi Al-Mohandis, by the US forces and the disruption of the US-Iran balance in the country against the latter one. At the beginning of his political life, Al-Kadhimi was supported by activists which organized street demonstrations for a long time. Soon after, he lost the support of the demonstrators, because he couldn't even protect the lives of the journalists who were closest to him, he protesters, and he could not break the Iranian influence in the country. Now, he is supported by only the Najaf authority led by the powerful cleric Muqtada Sadr and Ayatollah Sistani, who stand out politically only with their emphasis on Iraqism.
The expectations of the Iraqi people from the Ankara visit, which took place simultaneously with the economic austerity policies, such as: devaluation and salary reductions in the country, are more particularly, increasing the amount of water that Turkey allows to flow to Iraq as the drought experienced in the country and the ending of the publicly hot-discussed anti-terror operations of Turkey carried out at its borders with Iraq. On the other hand, Ankara's expectations from Baghdad are to take a clearer stance towards the terrorist organization called the PKK, especially with its structure in Northern Iraq and Sinjar, opening Ovaköy which is the second border gate between the two countries and facilitating the work of Turkish companies in the country.
Al-Kadhimi, who is not originally a politician but finds himself as the prime minister, due to the complex balances in the country, is considering participating in the elections which will be held in June and is protecting his seat. For this reason, it is necessary to manage regional relations, especially with the sensitive balances between the US and Iran, and above all, to give hope to the wider public about the increasing socioeconomic problems in Iraq. Although, with the event at the beginning of last year was dealt with a great blow to Iran and its supporters, Tehran's influence in the country has not been completely broken, on the contrary, it has become more visible as demonstrated by the recent attacks on the US Embassy in Baghdad. As Al-Kadhimi was aware that the means he had against these groups were limited, he did not involve in a direct conflict, but rather he tried to balance Iran by attracting anti-Iranian actors in the region, for instance: developing relations with countries such as: Saudi Arabia and Jordan.
In this context, in a situation that the conflict between the PKK-KRG has widened and the terrorist organization has targeted the foundations of the constitutional structure in Arbil, Donald Trump whom Tehran has shown maximum care to avoid confrontation with the loss of the US elections, the effects of the global epidemic on the chronic economic problems in Iraq, Al-Kadhimi and the political elites are aware of how the relationships which will be developed with Turkey is important. Therefore, the announcement of returning to the 2009 strategic cooperation agreement, which includes the mutual abolition of visas, is a very positive step. Although the developments during the Arab Spring and its aftermath led to a ten-year waste of time and energy, it has been understood that the region had no political future other than an economic integration model that all countries in the region would participate in. Iraq too has experienced this reality harshly, the resources of the Iraqi people have melted as a result of the sectarian and confrontational policies of the former Prime Minister Maliki, and the country, which had been a symbol of wealth in the recent past, is facing difficulties even to pay the civil servant salaries.
Although Iraqi young protesters and the Iraqi people, who have suffered from wars, sanctions, occupation, and foreign interventions for the last forty years, expect urgent solutions to their problems, it is obvious that there is no short-term solution to the problems, such as: the economic crisis exacerbated by the global epidemic, long years of corrupted mismanagement, environmental problems like water shortages as the outcome of global climate change or the political order that systematized the chaotic and corrupted rule which is caused by the occupiers. By making good use of the opportunities, Turkey, the country which is the region's producer and makes up the positive agenda, puts forth offers to Iraq and has avoided artificial political crises, concludes that there is no obstacle for establishing close relations with Baghdad for Ankara, which it has developed with some countries in the region. Saving the future of Iraq, which has sacrificed its last forty years to Ba'ath and other confrontational ideologies and squandered its vast financial resources, can only be possible by prioritizing not others, but its own national interests and actively participating in regional cooperation.
This article is first published in 24.12.2020 at TRT Farsi.