Three main goals behind Barzani’s Turkey visit

Alwaght– Masoud Barzani, the president of the Iraqi Kurdistan region, made a scheduled visit to Turkey on Sunday, 26 February, meeting the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan upon his arrival in Turkey. Following meeting the Turkish leader, Barzani had also talked to turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim. Kurdish region’s chief visit to Ankara is likely to lead to important agreements between Ankara and Erbil.

A day before his Turkey visit, Masoud Barzani in an interview with the German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung had said that he along with the Turkish president aimed at establishing a lasting friendship between the Kurds and the Turks, adding that the practical steps of the initiative will be taken during his Turkey trip. Barzani’s recent visit to the Turkish capital follows his meeting with the Turkish PM Yildirm on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, and is believed to address significant objectives and points. The most important of them are as follows.

Deepening Baghdad-Erbil disputes by highlighting Ankara’s pro-Kurdish independence stances

Upon Barzani’s arrival at the Istanbul Ataturk Airport, something very surprising took place, catching attention of the pro-Barzani media: The Kurdistan region’s flag– a flag of the Kurdish independence bid–, instead of the Iraqi flag, was flown during Barzani reception at the airport. The Turkish measure pushed the analysts to suggest that the reception ceremony for Barzani echoed reception of president of an independent state.

The fact is that the Turkish officials are never in favor of the Iraqi Kurdistan region’s independence, but their behavior during the last four visits of the Kurdish officials to Turkey majorly pursued behind-the-scenes goals. It is believed that Turks eye three essential ends behind their ostensible support for a Kurdish independent state in northern Iraq. First, using Kurdish independence as a trump card to get concessions from Iraq’s central government. Second, seeking nationwide instability in Iraq by emboldening Kurdistan’s independence bid that will cause heightened Baghdad-Erbil rifts. Because a strong and stable central Iraqi government in post-ISIS time will by no means back Turkey’s regional interests. And finally, showing a superficial backing for the independence of the Kurds, to expand Ankara’s influence among Kurdistan’s political parties and citizens for the final end of grasping the Kurdish market in the long run.

Confronting PKK’s gains in northern Syria

One of the key aims of both Erdogan and Barzani at the present time is to find way to take on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the region, and particularly in Syria. Following the eruption of the domestic crisis in Syria in 2011, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the Syrian branch of the PKK, seized the opportunity caused by the power vacuum in northern Syria to establish its autonomous canton system, bringing under its control a vast part of Syria’s north along the Turkish borders. Almost in all of his speeches, Erdogan has labelled the PYD as an affiliate of the PKK and a terrorist force that poses threats to the Turkish national security. In addition to Erdogan’s antagonism towards the PKK, the Barzani-led Iraqi Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) has heavily frayed ties with the PKK in Iraq and Syria. In fact, all of the Barzani-backed Kurdish parties and groups in Syria are against the rule of the Democratic Union Party over Syria’s north. Certainly, one of the key points of talks between Barzani, Erdogan, and Yildirim was finding ways to block the PKK’s influence in the region. The PKK deployment of forces to protect the Iraqi Sinjar mountainous area under “YBSH” units that provoked a new round of the Turkish army’s airstrikes at the group’s positions in the Qandil Mountains in north of Iraq can be another point of discussion and agreements between the three leaders during Barzani’s visit.

Security and energy cooperation boost

Another likely discussion point between Barzani and the Turkish leaders was the security and energy joint work. Actually, after 2009, Turkey, with a direction from its foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu who later in 2014 became the prime minister, has paid a special attention to Iraq’s Kurdistan as its potential key energy supplier. On the other side, the landlocked Kurdistan region critically needs to export energy sources like oil to Turkey to obtain at least its economic independence from Baghdad. This need will remain in place. Regarding the fact, the Turkish leaders started a win-win game with the Kurdish leader. The outcome was a pipeline built in a short time, connecting the Kurdish region to the Turkish territories. Ankara has plans to provide its energy sources including oil and gas from post-ISIS Kurdistan in a bid to reduce its reliance on countries such as Russia.

Moreover, the Kurdish and Turkish leaders have reportedly talked security collaboration to control the Kurdistan borders with Turkey in a bid to stifle the PKK forces’ possible attacks against the Turkish border areas. Barzani has frequently said that he disapproved of an intra-Kurdish fighting, but at the present time he warmly welcomes undermining and obliteration of the PKK. To this end, he certainly will build the necessary grounds for support for the Turkish army to raid the PKK forces’ positions in the mountains of the Kurdistan region.