Aug 5 2012
Azzaman, August 5, 2012
Iraq is not battling internal problems only. With its relations getting sour with Turkey in the north and not on the right course with Saudi Arabia in the south, the country now has its own international headaches to grabble with.
One sometimes wonders whether the U.S., which invaded Iraq in 2003, had left an independent country behind when it withdrew its forces by the end of 2011.
The Kurdish enclave in the north is more than autonomous with its own armed forces, government and constitution. It is not answerable to the central government in Baghdad. On the contrary, it has always been on the course of defiance.
In the center and south several provinces, encouraged by neighboring states particularly Iran, are having their own administrative structures and some of them their own armed militias.
The government in Baghdad still has access to oil royalties which in recent years have surpassed $100 billion a year. But it is still not strong enough to reckon with.
The Kurds, for instance, strike oil development deals with foreign companies without even notifying the central government. They even have started refining and selling their oil and stashing the income in their own coffers.
As for the neighboring states, their meddling has increased since the U.S. withdrawal. Each neighboring state, particularly the heavy-weight among them – Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia – are carving their own paths. But Iran is reported to have emerged as the most influential across the country.
Turkey only belatedly has come to the Iraqi scene but with great force. Emboldened by the events in Syria and the possible collapse of the government of President Bashar Assad, Turkey is keen to have a strong foothold in Iraq, particularly in its north.
And to demonstrate its power, Ankara dispatched its Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on a visit to the oil-rich Iraqi city of Kirkuk without even bothering to ask Baghdad’s permission.
Kirkuk is a disputed city with major Iraqi ethnic minorities claiming it to be their own. It has a sizeable Turkmen minority – Iraqis of Turkish descent.
The visit has raised strong criticism and condemnation from Baghdad, which saw it as a violation of its sovereignty.
But nonetheless, it was the right thing to do from the Turkish perspective, and to Baghdad humiliation, the Turkish Foreign Ministry summoned the Iraqi envoy to Ankara to show its anger at Iraqi protests over the visit.
As Syria seems to be destined to fall apart, the events there will have repercussions over the region but Iraq is certain to be the most affected. The weak and the vulnerable are the ones who bear the consequences of international crises.
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