Meanwhile, as Iraq is disintegrating…

Meanwhile, as Iraq is disintegrating…

“I have rarely been to a country where everyone is so consummated by politics; that’s wonderful. Turks love to talk politics, but as an economist, I focus on the structural side of the economy and we accept the environment as it is.”

This is the answer I received from Word Bank Turkey director Martin Raiser.

During the interview, which was published yesterday, June 30, he underlined the new economic agenda on which Turkey needed to focus. Yet, Turkey’s agenda is completely dominated by politics and the question I asked was whether he thought political instability to be at the gist of Turkey’s problems.

His was a diplomatic answer. His observation is still important because it tells us something we tend to forget. Yes, we Turks are so consummated by politics that we actually end up avoiding talking about real issues.

As I am writing these lines, Selahattin Demirtaş is making his speech as the Peace and Democracy Party’s (BDP) presidential candidate. We are heading toward presidential elections; it is therefore normal for the agenda to be fully dominated by this issue.

Yet as I write these lines, Iraq is busy being disintegrated and it is no less important than who is going to be Turkey’s next president for the country’s future.

Just a few months ago, a high level official from the Turkish Foreign Ministry had told a small group of journalists about the chaos that was approaching Iraq. The message I got was that unless Nouri al-Maliki is not elected or changed strategies, which, even then both appeared to be impossible, Iraq’s disintegration looked nearly inevitable. I was highly interested by the top level diplomat’s statement since all I had heard from Turkish officials for the past two decades as a journalist was how maintaining Iraq’s territorial integrity and unity was vital to Turkey. It was the first time I heard a high level official implying that Turkey should get ready for the inevitable and that it was good that Ankara enjoyed good relations with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) because when things become worse, the Kurdish region would serve as a buffer zone between Turkey and the war torn southern Iraq.

“Iraqi Kurds seem to have geared up toward independence and as of now, only the Americans can stop them,” a former Turkish diplomat familiar with the region told me.

Reading Iraqi minister Ashti Hawrami’s interview in daily Hürriyet, one gets the impression that while the KRG will let Turks know of their steps toward independence, they felt confident they would not meet resistance from Turks. What an irony; it looks like Turks may be watching Iraqi Kurds move toward independence, while the U.S.  tops the list of the possible players to stop them from doing so.

Obviously, having a Kurdish buffer zone will not be enough to save Turkey from the fallout of the disintegration of Iraq. If we are to accept the division in Ira, what else should we do, other than consolidating our ties to Iraqi Kurds by letting them sell their oil? How inevitable is Iraq’s dismemberment? Can we stop it? If indeed it is inevitable, is it better to try to delay it for a while?
We should all be discussing the answers to these questions. But our political leaders, President Abdullah Gül, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu included, are busy with their personal careers. The opposition is not any better. And actually the blackout imposed on the press about the fate of the Turkish hostages in Iraq should not keep the opposition from constantly watching over the issue.