Turkey welcomes Barzani as a president

Turkey welcomes Barzani as a president

The meeting of Masoud Barzani, leader of the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq, and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan today, April 19, might hold key importance regarding the future of the Kurdish problem as a problem involving not only those two countries, but Iran and Syria as well.

Barzani is on his way back from the United States where he had a series of talks, topped by one with U.S. President Barack Obama, the secretary of state and the defense secretary. In treating Barzani almost like a state president, Obama has demonstrated that he is not going to let the Kurds down, which was a matter of worry for Iraqi Kurds who had been the only local collaborators to the Americans back in 2003 against Saddam Hussein.

Barzani is going to be treated like a state president in Turkey, too. In addition to his meeting with Erdoğan in Istanbul, he has planned to travel to Ankara on April 20 in order to meet with Turkish President Abdullah Gül and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu.

It is difficult to believe that until a few years ago Barzani used to be mocked as a ‘tribe leader’ by many Turkish politicians while his counterparts in Ankara would be upper-middle rank diplomats, military and intelligence officers. 

But times have changed now. So it is not difficult to believe that Barzani is becoming an increasingly important player in regional affairs, following the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. There is a possibility that the Kurdish problem could be handled in a totally new fashion soon, as a package instead of in the current country-based manner.

Despite Iraq’s Sunni Vice President Tarıq al-Hashemi, who is not the apple of the eye of Shiite President Nouri al-Maliki, currently on the run -staying now in Turkey- the possibility that the next run of Iran-nuclear talks will be hosted by Baghdad could be an American ice-breaker between the parties in Iraq. Can it be a coincidence that following Barzani’s visit to D.C., Baghdad has eased its veto on the oil contract of Exxon with the Kurds in the north by the Turkish border?

Perhaps that is why Selahattin Demirtaş, co-chairman of the Kurdish-focused Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), claimed in an interview with daily Radikal on Wednesday that Turkey and the U.S. were trying to make Barzani the joint leader of all Kurds; an option he rejected. And perhaps that is the reason why a ranking delegation of the BDP is expected to travel to the U.S. for talks with officials, including those of the State Department, to explain their position.

That could be a difficult mission since the BDP has difficulties distancing themselves from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been carrying out an armed campaign against Turkey for the last three decades and with whom they share common grassroots.

To complete the picture it should be added that the main military camps of the PKK are now located in the Kurdish region of Iraq where they operate hit-and-run types of attacks into Turkey and Iran, and that Iran is involved in an on-and-off fight with the PKK’s local wing, called PJAK. Furthermore, the PKK in Syria has been supporting the Bashar al-Assad regime, despite local Syrian Kurds being against the Damascus regime. Perhaps we are actually running toward a crossroads for a regional solution to the Kurdish problem?