Post-occupation Iraq and Turkey

Post-occupation Iraq and Turkey

After the successful devastation of Iraq and its establishment of a “democracy a la Americano,” U.S. soldiers were pulled out of Iraq, leaving behind some 15,000 to 20,000 “special advisors” in the country to guide it through the post-occupation era.

It is indeed a paradoxical situation. Including this writer, most Turks (like many Americans) were against the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Most Turks were against the dastardly crimes committed by the U.S. troops there, particularly the attacks on civilians in mosques, as well as the loathsome human rights violations in the form of physical, psychological, and sexual abuse, including torture, rape, sodomy, and the homicide of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison by U.S. soldiers and the personnel of some U.S. governmental agencies.

Yet, most Turks, including this writer, were of the opinion that the U.S. could not clean off its hands, pack up and go from Iraq before cleaning up the mess it made there.

This country suffered a lot from the surge of separatist terrorism directed at it from northern Iraq because of the power vacuum in the neighboring country that emerged because of the U.S. occupation and the disinterest of the Americans in fighting the separatist gang. Now, with Americans out and signs of confrontation between the U.S.-trained Baghdad army and the Peshmarga of the Kurdish entity along the border of northern Iraq with Iraq proper, one sees that there is a grave threat ahead.

Obviously, the security and stability of not only Iraq but the entire region would most probably hinge on to what degree post-occupation Iraq will manage to enforce its own peace and stability.

Even though a considerable portion of U.S. fighting power was not withdrawn from the region and just relocated to Turkey at the İncirlik base near Adana, it is obvious that in the weeks and months ahead, there will be serious security problems throughout Iraq which will definitely have a spillover effect on Turkish security. It was therefore in Turkey’s best national interest to accept the relocation of some American war power at İncirlik and perhaps to accept increased collaboration with the U.S. in the training of the Iraqi security forces so that our neighbor can establish government control across its territory.

Disputed internal borders, as well as ethnic, religious and sectarian divides that cannot be necessarily blamed on the U.S. occupation but were definitely aggravated by the U.S. occupation, have turned Iraq into a minefield. Stepping on one or more of these mines might trigger an even bigger conflagration in Iraq than the existing problems and seriously jeopardize not only the integrity of our neighbor but damage the stability and peace of the entire region. Besides, it is also evident that the U.S. departure from Iraq underlines the probability of Iran capturing an upper hand in the delicate political balances in Baghdad. 

Thus, not from a purely security perspective but also as a factor of the regional and perennial Turkish-Iran contest for dominance, Ankara is compelled to be more proactive in its dealings regarding Iraq. Besides, a “spring” in Baghdad might not be as pleasing for Ankara as the “spring” elsewhere.