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Civil war 'worst scenario' for Iraq, says analyst

ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News | 9/30/2010 12:00:00 AM |

Prolonged political crisis in Iraq is carrying a risk of fueling ethnic and religious tensions, says an analyst at the Black Sea Energy and Economic Forum in Istanbul. Considering Turkey's willingness to invest in Iraqi oil and gas fields, the International Crisis Group's Middle East expert says, ‘Turkey has followed a smart policy in dealing with both Baghdad and Arbil’

The lack of a government in Iraq for over seven months is carrying the risk of fuelling ethnic and religious tensions and leading up to civil strife, a leading analyst on Iraq told a prestigious forum Thursday.

“There are two ways in Iraq. Without a government, which is the very bad scenario, it can lead up to the return to civil war,” Dr. Joost Hiltermann, Middle East expert with the International Crisis Group, told one of the panels at the Black Sea Energy and Economic Forum in Istanbul. 

He said the second option for the war-torn country is to establish a broad-based government but warned that none of the scenarios is moving ahead right now. “Iraq will face a very difficult period.”

Another problem facing Iraq is lack of an agreement between the central government in Baghdad and the regional Kurdish administration in Arbil over the oil law. “A decision should be made. No progress has been made since 2007,” said Hiltermann.

Turkey’s willingness to invest in Iraqi oil and gas fields, however, raises the question of how to deal with Baghdad and Arbil, the expert noted, referring to Turkey’s growing ties with the regional Kurdish administration over the past years. “Turkey has followed a smart policy in dealing with Baghdad and Arbil.”

İbrahim Kalın, the Turkish prime minister’s foreign policy adviser who took the floor in the same panel, said nurturing the Turkish-Iraqi Kurdish relationship was because of the “realities on the ground.”

“We normalized our relations with the Kurdish regional government, which we didn’t have any relationship with before,” he said. Asked which party Turkey would support, Arbil or Baghdad, if the worst scenario happens and Iraq devolves into a civil war between its majority Arab population and minority Kurdish population, the advisor said, “We hope it does not come to that.”

He added, “We are in dialogue with all groups in Iraq, no matter whether they are Sunnis or Shiites.”

In comments on the Kurdish problem, he said that issue has links with northern Iraq, but referring to the Kurdish population of the countries in the region – Iraq, Turkey, Iran and Syria – he made it clear that no single country can control regional dynamics by itself. “They are all inter-dependent.”

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