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November 23, 2012, Friday

US and Russia should open a new page

It is certainly no coincidence that the Nouri al-Maliki government in Baghdad has decided to militarily threaten Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region while the armed conflict between Israel and Hamas has resumed in Gaza.

 It is known that since the early days of the US occupation in Iraq, the new rulers of Baghdad have had serious problems with northern Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani. So it won’t be surprising if a serious armed conflict begins between forces controlled by Maliki and Barzani. As for Palestine, the details about this conflict are already well known, but it is necessary to underscore that the rift between Gaza and the West Bank grows deeper with every passing day.

So what has changed and why are we witnessing dangerous developments in Iraq and Palestine simultaneously?

The most probable motive for Israel and the Maliki government to take up arms is that Palestine and Iraqi Kurdistan have accelerated their efforts towards independence. The problem is that the countries that support the independence of Palestine and that of Iraqi Kurdistan are not the same. For example, Turkey would not be disturbed to see an independent Palestine, but would be quite worried about the idea of Kurdistan’s independence. On the contrary, Israel supports Iraqi Kurdistan’s independence, while it strongly opposes the Palestinians gaining independence. Iran promotes Palestinian independence, and particularly that of Gaza, while it has clearly announced that Iraqi Kurdistan’s efforts for independence constitute a casus belli.

The main problem is that the positions of Russia and the US on these independence ambitions are still not clear, and this vagueness brings more bloodbaths. It is, however, almost certain that they intend to support opposing players in the region.

The differences between Washington, D.C., and Moscow become most apparent where Iran is concerned. It is believed that Kurdistan’s independence would weaken Iran while Palestine’s independence would bring it comfort. Nevertheless, the main paradigm that shouldn’t be omitted about the region’s balances is the rapprochement between Iran and China. The US is particularly disturbed by this rapprochement, which Russia doesn’t seem to feel quite comfortable with as well. The point is, the US’s actions to limit the influence of the Iran-China duo reinforce Washington’s presence in the region, which Russia doesn’t like either. In brief, Russia’s priority is to watch over Iran, just as the US’s is to protect Israel.

The situation is becoming more volatile as armed conflicts and terrorist acts are spreading and radical religious groups are becoming more influential, and it is becoming difficult to understand who supports whom. The present tension may even soon provoke interstate wars.

If Turkey is somehow drawn into such interstate wars, this will mean that NATO too will come into the picture, making the situation even more complicated.

For now, it is not easy to predict what the outcome of this mayhem will be. It is, however, certain that the rapprochement between Egypt and Turkey, Turkey and Iran or Egypt and Iran will not be sufficient to ease the tension. Israel is bringing the US into the region by attacking Gaza and at the same time Maliki, by his actions, is pushing Barzani into the US’s arms.

In order to prevent the situation from becoming totally uncontrollable, the US and Russia may have to get into the game more openly, or at least express their will more insistently. Of course, this should be expressed through political and economic tools and definitely not through military ones. If Russia and the US wait any longer, they may soon see third actors becoming more influential in the region. They need to hurry up.

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