Turkey’s Iraq challenge
On March 20, 2003, with the American invasion of Iraq, the Iraqi state collapsed, leaving a serious power vacuum in its wake. The vacuum created in Iraq devastated the power balance both nationally and regionally. The ethnic and sectarian strife that had ailed Iraq spread through the region. Since then, Iraq has been trying to hold onto its political unity while trying to deal with the socio-economic consequences of the U.S. invasion. Iraq, which has survived three wars and one economic sanction in the last 25 years, has a long way to go for economic recovery. The reconstruction of Iraqi politics and the economy is not only an Iraqi problem.
Iraq’s modern history, since it was established by the English in 1921 in Baghdad and Basra, with the addition of Mosul five years later, has been laden with strife and war. The number of those who died just in the last three decades under Saddam’s rule due to war and economic sanctions is estimated to be around 3 million. Iraq is one of the countries that have suffered most from the imposition of artificial borders in the Middle East. Iraq, conceived as a buffer zone of “frozen conflict,” entered a new era with the American invasion. The invasion seems to have opened a Pandora’s Box. While it put a stop to the Saddam dictatorship, it gave rise to a new regional concept that can be described as the “Shiite Hunger.”
It cannot be reasonably expected that assessments of Iraq’s current predicament, offered without adequate consideration of its background, can produce a sound analyses. Iraq has spent the last 35 years being swept from Saddam’s dictatorship to the U.S. invasion and ethnic and sectarian chaos. Today, Iraq, like all other remnants of World War I, is going through a crisis that has long been due.
What needs to be examined right now are the very conditions that make what has happened in Mosul possible: The various organizations that have emerged within the last five years, the impact of the American invasion on these organizations and their skewed associations with Shiite actors. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which was made possible by Iraq’s invasion and the Nouri al-Maliki administration, emerged as the “missionary savior” in every meaning of the term. It stood as a provocateur and anti-revolutionary in front of every development that had the potential to put an end to the inherited order of the First World War.
ISIL has not only tainted the Syrian uprising, but has also become an excuse for Bashar al-Assad and for the West. It gave legitimacy to al-Maliki’s policies that activated the ethnic and sectarian fault lines in Iraq. It’s highly unlikely that the attack carried out on the Turkish consulate in Mosul will have any particular significance. On the contrary, it is not all surprising that the consulate should become a target after al-Maliki simply handed Mosul over to ISIL. Neither is it a coincidence that such an incident should occur just as Kurdish oil is begging to flow.
Since the beginning of the American occupation, Turkey has consistently been one regional actor that has been most supportive of Iraq. It has consistently exerted the most effort towards Iraq’s consolidation. Turkey holds special significance for the Sunni Arabs and Turkmens in Iraq. When the Kurdish regional administration was added to this mix, Turkey became one of the most important actors in Iraq’s quest for stability and freedom. Turkey has to meet this challenge.