First results of the sectarian war in Iraq
With the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) taking over a very wide geography from the north of Iraq towards its center, we can say that not only within Iraq, but in the entire Middle East, power equilibriums are being disrupted; and as a consequence of this all the alliances in the region will re-shape. This creates several significant outcomes as summarized below:
Back to the beylik system: A widespread opinion is Iraq is losing its political unity and transforming into a chaotic country of three pieces: Kurdish, Shiite and Sunni, all homogenous within itself. Turkey has to live with the ISIL reality as its neighbor in the Iraqi border along with the Kurdish Regional
Administration. The situation in Syria is not any better. There are several regions there dominated by fundamental groups, Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD). The reality of the new era connotes the beylik (princedoms) system in Anatolia before the founding of the Ottoman Empire, a system where each beylik dominated a separate geographic location.
Al-Assad Strengthening: One of the most important consequences of this fragmentation process is Bashar al-Assad will strengthen his position in his own region. The Western world, against the fundamentalist threat spreading throughout the region, has come to the point where it would accept the Bashar al-Assad regime as a valid interlocutor despite all its sins.
Kurds as Winners: Another important aspect is the Kurdish Regional Administration, by silently annexing Kirkuk into its territory, has strengthened its position. In instability, the Kurdish zone will be perceived as a stable area in the eyes of the Western world. A possible alliance with the central government might result in the easing of the resistance to marketing the Kurdish oil through Turkey.
The Other Winner, Iran: Iran’s influence over Baghdad will be solidified. Moreover, if this is conducted with U.S. cooperation, Iran’s regional influence will seriously soar.
Kurds as Turkey’s Ally: Turkey, no doubt, will have to review its entire policy all together. Iraqi Kurds, as of today, are the most valuable ally of Turkey in the region.
Inevitable Moderation with the PYD: Turkey, as of the summer of 2012, has become neighbors with the PYD, who are in line with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), in a wide segment of the Syrian border. Developments have forced Turkey to normalize its relations with the PYD.
Peace with the Alevis: Turkish politicians, as columnist Soli Özel has emphasized, will have to give up their discourses and policies that fuel sectarian discrimination. A solution to the Alevi issue has never been so urgent and vital as today.
Limits of Turkey’s Power: An important result we have to draw from all these incidents is the course of events has shown the limits of Turkey’s power to everybody in a striking manner. Until a short while ago Turkey was presenting itself as the order maker in the region and as the most important power in the Middle East. Today, it is only a spectator to the massacres happening across its southern borders.
It lacks the ability to divert the course of events and is striving to save its diplomats and citizens from ISIL, which has taken them hostage. This, no doubt, is quite a different image than the one this country claimed a while ago, with the attitude of “this region is our business,” accompanied by an inflated self-confidence.