ISIL’s headway in Iraq may embolden Kurds in region strategically

ISIL’s headway in Iraq may embolden Kurds in region strategically

Armed Kurdish fighters and tanks are seen being deployed due to a dispute with the Iraqi army on the outskirts of Kirkuk, some 250 kilometers north of Baghdad, in this Dec. 3, 2012 file photo. (Photo: Reuters)

June 11, 2014, Wednesday/ 19:13:06/ DENİZ ARSLAN / ANKARA
As the advance of the al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Mosul gains momentum with the seizure of the Turkish Consulate General there, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq, the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and the Democratic Union Party (PYD), a Syrian offshoot of the PKK, may be able to strengthen their ties with the West due to their ability to battle ISIL in the region, analysts have said.
 
Mehmet Akif Okur, an expert on Middle East at the Ankara Strategy Institute, told Today's Zaman on Wednesday that the West would like to use Kurds in the region to counter ISIL's advancement and that this strategic card would strengthen Kurds' position in the region. The KRG has a force of 50,000 peshmerga in the area.
 
When asked what he thinks about reports in the Turkish press suggesting that the advancement of ISIL would bring many actors to the region, including Turks and the KRG and even the PKK and the PYD, Okur said he does not agree with that argument, saying, “If Turkey doesn't consider the expansion of Arbil's power as a threat to itself, then ISIL may bring Turks and Kurds closer.”
 
“ISIL is advancing in Kirkuk at the moment, a disputed region. One part is under the control of the Iraqi army and one part is under peshmerga forces. Arbil wants to achieve independence with Kirkuk in that independent state. When ISIL attacked Mosul, the Iraqi army left immediately, including the forces in Kirkuk. Therefore Kurds will gain total control in Kirkuk and the problem in Kirkuk will be solved de facto. If these developments cause Iraq to break up, the KRG will then have grounds to go its own way with Kirkuk,” said Okur.
 
Noting the PYD's call to the KRG administration to cooperate against ISIL, Okur said Kurds in the region may become closer. “The PKK is fighting against ISIL via the PYD. ISIL is a source of fear and an enemy of the West. The PKK may use these developments and present itself as a fighting power against ISIL in the region and ask for its removal from the list of terrorist organizations,” stressed Okur.
 
Okur also said the West may view the PKK as a counter power to ISIL and would thus not ask the terrorist organization to lay down its arms but continue to fight against ISIL. “That would strengthen the relationship between the PKK and the West and put the PKK in a stronger position vis-à-vis Turkey,” added Okur.
 
Foreign relations analyst Hasan Kanbolat agreed that KRG President Massoud Barzani may benefit from the situation. “It [ISIL's advancement in the region] may expand the KRG's territory and strengthen its control over oil fields. [Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri] al-Maliki would also need to deal with ISIL and would leave the KRG alone,” Kanbolat said to Today's Zaman.
 
He also noted that there had been bomb attacks in Arbil and Sulaymaniyah by Salafis in the last year or so. The contemporary interpretation of Salafism, which basically means “return to the origins,” enables the association of Islam with terrorism, which includes ISIL.
 
Baghdad will cooperate with Kurdish forces to drive out ISIL militants from Mosul, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said on Wednesday. “There will be closer cooperation between Baghdad and the regional Kurdistan government to work together and flush out these foreign fighters,” said Zebari, who is attending a conference in Athens.
 
Security analyst Ali Nihat Özcan told Today's Zaman ISIL's progress shows the weakness of the Baghdad administration in Iraq and could trigger the break-up of the country. Özcan said the KRG will be careful not to appear to be very close to Baghdad in the fight against ISIL and become an open target. “In the end, it may be to the KRG's advantage if the central Baghdad government has no energy to deal with the oil pipeline through the Kirkuk-Ceyhan oil pipeline,” said Özcan.
 
Arbil and Baghdad have been at odds recently due to the KRG's oil shipments through its own pipeline to the international market. A second shipment of Iraqi Kurdish crude has sailed from the Turkish port of Ceyhan, industry and government sources said on Tuesday, increasing the stakes in a battle with Baghdad over control of oil sales from the autonomous region. At least 2 million barrels of Kurdish crude are now at sea, despite protests from Baghdad that only the central government has the right to sell Iraqi oil.
 
ARABAŞLIK: Opposition calls on Turkish FM to resign
 
Main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) Deputy Chairman Faruk Loğoğlu has criticized Turkish foreign policy in the region and called on Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu to resign.
 
Loğoğlu claimed the government provided support to ISIL and similar terrorist organizations in Syria in order to topple the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria, either directly or indirectly, causing ISIL to grow stronger. He also criticized the government for allegedly allowing extremist fighters to cross over into Syria via the Turkish border.
 
“The Justice and Development Party [AK Party] government is responsible for allowing radical terrorist organizations to settle in a region right next to Turkey, helping them gain strength and pose a big threat to the region,” said Loğoğlu on Wednesday in a statement.
 
He also asked the AK Party government to thoroughly and urgently explain in a special session of Parliament the threat posed by ISIL to Turkey and the measures that have been taken. “The first step by the government should be the resignation of Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, who is the architect of these policies,” said Loğoğlu.
 
Loğoğlu stressed that the government should put priority on saving Turkish citizens in the region who have been held hostage by ISIL. Loğoğlu, a retired diplomat, also emphasized that the capture of Mosul by ISIL is a strong sign that the territorial integrities of two of Turkey's neighbors -- Syria and Iraq -- are in danger.
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