Maliki's anti-Turkish sentiments are not new. He has accused Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of sectarian interference in Iraqi internal affairs and has even gone as far as threatening Turkey with retaliation, hinting that Turkey too had internal sectarian issues to deal with. Maliki's explanation for Turkey's alleged sectarian interference is Erdoğan's “illusion of regional hegemony.”
The political scene is seen completely differently from Ankara. From here it seems that due to Maliki's sectarian policies Iraq is disintegrating. For the last 10 years, the questions asked in Ankara regarding a Kurdish declaration of independence from Baghdad have been “Why?” and “How do we avoid this?” Today, the questions are “When?” and “How can this be done with Kirkuk?”
Quite opposed to Maliki's claim of sectarian interference, Turkey has advocated continued integration in Iraq and regarded Kirkuk's control by the central authority of Baghdad, despite the historical and demographic rights of the northern Kurdish and Turkmen tribes in the city, as a key to this territorial integrity. At the cost of angering its natural allies in the region, Turkey lobbied against the Kirkuk referendums that would probably bind the fate of the oil-rich city to the KRG.
It is true that Turkey played its cards openly during the last elections and gave clear support to the secular al-Iraqiya List headed by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. Al-Iraqiya was a pre-election coalition of Sunni, Shiite, Turkmen and non-sectarian elements of Iraqi society. Its political identity was defined as “secularism, non-sectarianism, Iraqi nationalism and Arab nationalism.” Al-Iraqiya, which was also joined by Hashimi's Renewal List, lost the elections, and one by one all the leaders of the political parties who joined the coalition started to pay for their decision to unite against al-Maliki. This is sectarian politics. Supporting al-Iraqiya may be called “interference” but not “sectarianism.”
What will happen now?
Turkey is not a remote transatlantic country when it comes to having a stake in the future of Iraq. Any power vacuum in Iraq means a safe haven for terrorists in the north of the country, and Turkish citizens pay for that vacuum with their lives. No government in Ankara can close its eyes and ears to developments in Baghdad. If Iraq is in fact disintegrating, it is obvious that Turkey should strive for a stable democracy at its southern border. If that country shall be Kurdistan, Turkey will support that country to include Kirkuk in its territory. Alternatively, Turkey will look forward to forging a Kurdish-Sunni Arab confederation that will include the districts of Kirkuk, Ninawa, Al-Anbar, Salah al-Din, Diyala and Baghdad. Only such a confederation can assure a stable country to the south of Turkey and only such a confederation can obstruct Iranian access to the Mediterranean through Syria and Lebanon.
The fear of losing control over that access is my explanation of Maliki's anti-Turkish remarks.