Barzani has thrown himself into the fire, says Erdoğan
Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Massoud Barzani threw himself into the fire by not calling off the Sept. 25 independence referendum, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said, accusing Arbil of “oppressing Turkmens” in northern Iraq and particularly in Kirkuk.
“The Barzani administration has thrown itself into the fire. This fire will only slightly touch us but it will seriously hurt some people,” Erdoğan said in address to Police Academy graduates on Sept. 28.
Turkey opposed the referendum and Erdoğan harshened his language against the Barzani administration after it refused to cancel the vote despite calls from regional and global powers.
“You are leading the Northern Iraq Regional Government. You have got money, oil, everything. So what does he [Barzani] say? He wants to be independent. You have a 350-kilometer border with us. Have you discussed this issue with us?” Erdoğan said.
“Have you discussed it with Iran? No. With the Iraqi federal state? No. Is Syria in agreement with it? No. So why did you take such a step? Ruling a state needs different skills than being a tribal leader,” he said.
Despite the recent nosedive in relations, Barzani was for years the Erdoğan administration’s closest regional ally, at the cost of damaging Ankara’s relations with the central government in Baghdad.
‘KRG oppresses Turkmens’
The Iraqi Kurdish move for independence will end in “disappointment,” Erdoğan said, also warning that Turkmens are being oppressed in northern Iraq and their rights are being violated, similar to how the Saddam Hussein regime executed similar policies on Kurds in the past.
“They are oppressing Turkmens. They don’t respect Turkmens’ rights. But they still say: ‘We will become a state.’ If we have reacted [against the referendum] so harshly, it is because we only want the best for Arabs, Turkmens and Kurds,” he said.
Erdoğan added that the only open support given to Arbil was from Israel, as many Kurds have been pictured waving Israeli flags while celebrating the referendum.
“I saw this in a newspaper. A KRG official said they were not aware of the Israeli flags. But I can see it from Turkey, how come you cannot see it from there?” he said, claiming that the KRG leadership is “cooperating” with the Israeli intelligence organization, the Mossad.
Comparing the KRG’s ambitions in northern Iraq to the Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire during the First World War, Erdoğan also said “new Lawrences” will not be successful this time, referring to Lawrence of Arabia.
If Iraqi Kurds serve “other actors’ interests in the region,” they will not be able to ask for help from Turkey, he said.
During the Arab revolt in 1916, the British Army dispatched its own military mission to liaise between the Arab leadership and the British high command in Egypt, in order to coordinate strategy against the Ottoman authorities. This mission included young British Lieutenant T.E. Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia.
Meanwhile, Erdoğan also recalled the Turkish military’s Euphrates Shield Operation into northern Syria targeting Kurdish militants and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which started in August 2016, hinting that it could do the same in Iraq.