Turkey is content with Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) leader Massoud Barzani’s recent meeting with US leaders, where he spoke out against Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s monopolization of political power in Iraq, which Turkey is also very critical of, Turkish Foreign Ministry sources have stated.
“Barzani visited the US to complain about Maliki,” said one diplomat on Friday, speaking on condition of anonymity. Barzani met with President Barack Obama and with Vice President Joe Biden separately on Wednesday, and told them that Maliki is consolidating power in a dictatorial way. He said Obama and Biden reassured him that the United States would remain committed to cooperation with Kurdistan and committed to helping Iraq solve its serious internal political problems.
The KRG’s relations with the Shiite-led government, which already has long-running disputes with Kurds over territory and oil, were strained further when Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, one of Iraq’s leading Sunni politicians, fled Baghdad for the Kurdish north in December to avoid prosecution at the hands of the Maliki-led government on charges of running death squads.
Bilgay Duman, an expert on Iraq from the Ankara-based Center for Middle Eastern Strategic Research (ORSAM), stated that Barzani’s reception by high-ranking US officials should be perceived as a warning to Maliki to abandon his sectarian-based policies in the country. Iraq is suffering from severe instabilities due to daily clashes between Shiite and Sunni groups, which escalated after US troops withdrew from the country in December. The KRG is striving to maintain balanced ties with Iraq’s rival Sunni and Shiite groups as they vie for influence in the country following the US withdrawal. Turkey is very critical of Maliki, saying the Shiite prime minister is using the arrest warrant against Hashemi to sideline Sunni political groups in the administration and hoard power for dominance of the Shiite bloc.
“The stance of Arbil and Ankara against Baghdad are very much in line, due to the fact that both are disturbed by Maliki’s dictatorial government,” affirmed Ali Semin, a Middle East expert from the Turkish think-tank -- the Wise Men Center for Strategic Studies (BİLGESAM). He added that the US is now trying to forge ties between KRG and Turkey in order to secure the unity of Iraq.
Turkey and the US have unwavering support for a unified Iraq with a multi-ethnic and democratic political system.
Mehmet Yeğin, an expert in the Ankara-based International Strategic Research Organization (USAK), underlined that the US wants to silence the international community’s criticisms, that its withdrawal has led to a crisis situation in the country, by trying to mend the disputes of Iraqi groups.
Also, some Iraqi politicians, who declined to be named, said that the timing of Barzani’s visit is also important in indicating support for Iraqi unity, which came before a national conference, bringing together all the political blocs in the country, to be held in Baghdad in coming weeks.
US-backed Iraqi President Jalal Talabani’s call for a national conference this week to bridge sharp differences between rival political blocs in Iraq.