What if Iraq falls apart?
Ankara may not be the only capital in which post-U.S. scenarios for Iraq are on the table, but the Turkish capital is definitely among them. Especially after a series of moves by dominating Shiite factions in Iraq and Iran, Turkish concerns about the future of Iraq are approaching an alarming level.
Those moves could be summarized as follows:
1. Following the last American soldier’s evacuation of Iraq, an arrest warrant was issued against Tariq al-Hashemi, the Sunni deputy president of Iraq, accusing him of participating in subversive activities against the government.
2. Al-Hashemi’s escape to the north of the country bordering Iran and Turkey, which is under control of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
3. The call of Iraq’s Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to Masoud Barzani, the head of the KRG, in order to give al-Hashemi back and not let him go to any other country; al-Maliki was implying Turkey.
4. U.S. oil company Exxon declares its commitment to its agreement with the KRG, despite al-Maliki’s reaction with still waiting oil and gas law of Iraq.
5. Al-Hashemi moves from the KRG capital Erbil to Sulaymaniyah, the hometown of Jalal Talabani, the Kurdish origin President of Iraq.
6. Bombs explode in Baghdad, killing 60 in one day.
7. Turkey reacts to French Parliament’s voting to criminalize denial of Armenian “genocide.” Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad meets Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan in Yerevan.
8. Turkey gets prepared to activate the U.S.-operated NATO missile shield radar, which was declared by French President Nicolas Sarkozy as being against Iran, by the end of this week.
9. Iran’s Chief of Joint Staff Gen. Hassan Firuzabadi calls Iraq for more military cooperation; it is welcomed by al-Maliki’s acting Defense Minister Saadoun al-Dulaimi. Iran starts a military exercise in the Strait of Hormuz, the exit of the Persian Gulf, controlling some 40 percent of the world’s oil exports.
That also meant challenging a new front, second to Israeli pressure regarding its nuclear program.
Perhaps the latest statement by Baghdad hinting at a revision for the al-Hashemi court decision might calm things down for a few days, but the tension is still high in Ankara considerations.
Now the scenarios:
1. Continuation in relative peace: Al-Maliki revises his policy, establishes a new government, giving posts to ethnic and religious groups according to the constitution.
2. Shiite domination in Iraq: With Kurdish and Sunni groups suppressed with the backing of Iran, this scenario is neither peaceful nor easy; it could only be possible, if possible at all, through a long and bloody civil war – but not very likely.
3. Federal Iraq: Kurds in the north have already a limited autonomy. After recent developments al-Hashemi also said Sunnis concentrated in central Iraq could go for it, if it’s not too late for al-Maliki to approve.
In this scenario, KRG would like to closely cooperate with Turkey, not only as an exit for its oil and gas exports but also for its protection.
4. Iraq falls apart: If this is the case, Iraq could be divided into two, instead of three. A Kurdish Sunni coalition in the central-northern parts is more likely with a greater Shiite state in the south, controlling the Persian Gulf area. This might be a result of a bloody process.
In the last two scenarios, the northern sectors of Iraq might sooner or later turn their eyes on Turkey as the only option other than Iran.
That northern sector is approximately the Vilayet of Mosul in the Ottoman administrative system, which had been left to Iraq by the young Turkish Republic by an agreement in 1926.
The whole picture will affect foreign and domestic politics in Turkey in 2012, as well as the Kurdish issue, which gives Ankara an additional reason to worry.