Is it possible to have a joint operation with Iran?
Devlet Bahçeli, the leader of the National Movement Party (MHP), recently criticized the Kurdish Regional Government’s (KRG) plan to hold an independence referendum and said “this should be considered ‘casus belli’ [cause for war].”
Some might have realized that Bahçeli’s statements in the recent past on foreign policy issues have turned out to be Turkey’s official foreign policy.
Most probably, following this statement, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım’s rhetoric against the referendum will become harsher.
Ankara tried to convince the KRG leader Massoud Barzani with diplomacy. It might now resort to tougher measures.
The first signal about such a policy change came recently against the Kurdistan Patriotic Union (PUK) of the Talabani family, which is the second most important political power in northern Iraq. The PUK’s Ankara representative Behruz Gelali was deported. Gelali could not hide his astonishment as he had to leave Turkey in three days after he was informed about the decision. “I have been in Turkey for the past 17 years. We have seen many crises but solved them through diplomacy. But the Turks this time went straight to a harsh measure,” he said.
While inquiring about this rather harsh decision, I found out that the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) had kidnapped two citizens of the Turkish Republic in Suleymaniyah, Iraq and far from protecting these Turkish citizens, the members of the PUK have been in activities that may be considered supportive of the PKK’s kidnapping.
In a previous article, I had referred to an Iranian diplomat who had told me “Turkey and Iran should not permit this [referendum], which will give the biggest harm to us.”
A few days later, the Iranian Chief of General Staff came to Turkey and was received at the highest level.
Following this visit, news articles indicating a “joint military operation with Iran against the PKK” were published in Turkey. President Erdoğan put forward a stance confirming these news articles.
Is the enemy of my enemy always my friend?
The spokesperson of the Iranian Armed Forces said Barzani’s independence referendum was part of the United States’ policy. “We think this step is part of the U.S. policy to divide the countries in the region and we are against it,” he said.
When you look at this picture, you might think there is a 100 percent overlap between Turkey’s and Iran’s policy on Iraq.
Yet, there is the other side of the medallion. The PUK, whose Ankara representative was deported from Turkey is like a satellite of Iran. The central government in Baghdad, which is the strongest opponent of the referendum, is also to a large extent under the control of Iran. Baghdad does not hide that it was encouraged and supported by Tehran on showing a strong reaction against Turkey’s military base in Bashiqa in northern Iraq.
In addition, the whole world knows that the essential element in the operation conducted by the Baghdad administration to save Telafer, a Turkmen city, from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is the Hashid al-Shaabi militia. Yet, Turkey’s only red line about the Telafer operation was to avoid using the Shaabi militia.
An Israeli diplomat had once said that the only place the statement, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” is not valid is the Middle East.
It is easy to see that, only by looking at what is happening in northern Iraq or even just by looking at Turkish—Iranian relations.
Creating an impression that all is rosy in relations with Iran just because Iran is against Barzani’s referendum could inflict irreparable damage to Turkey’s regional policies.