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Red Carpet for Barzani
Published in AL HAYAT on 17 - 11 - 2013

Masoud Barzani is no longer forced to meet secretly with the Kurds in Turkey. He has become the leader and President of a "state" recognized by Ankara, one that seeks an exchange of interests with the latter on the basis of mutual respect, even if at the expense of its relations with Baghdad. Ankara is able to infiltrate Iraq's Arabs and to ally itself with part of them against the other, in the name of the sect and confession. As for the Kurds, who gather around their leaders and cling to their ethnic nationalism, despite some disagreements, they are difficult to infiltrate.
It is on such a basis that Erdoğan's government has forged its relations with Iraq, during the American occupation and after it. It has sought to have a strong influence in Baghdad, and has succeeded at taking advantage of the situation. It has supported its corporations, which are investing billions of dollars in infrastructure and oil, and has successfully turned Iraq into a main importer of its products. This was in the days of the slogan of "zero problems" with its neighbors, and in the days of its honeymoon with Syria, of the dream of opening up the four seas to one another, and of reviving the Silk Road. Yet its longing for the Ottoman era quickly awakened it from this beautiful dream of the future, and "zero problems" turned into zero friends, apart from its friendship with Israel and the United States (the alliance of giants).
In the past two months, Erdoğan has begun changing his policy of hostility towards Iraq, and has rushed through the steps of reconciliation with the Kurds. Indeed, inviting Barzani to Diyarbakır, and Maliki to visit Ankara, is nothing but and indication of such a shift.
The fact of the matter is that Erdoğan, like many others, had been wagering on taking advantage of the Syrian tragedy to serve his own interests in the Levant. Yet things have gone against what he had been wishing for. The Islamists whom he had trained and armed, and whose passage to Syria he had facilitated, have turned against him. He has discovered that Zawahiri's theories, not those of Davutoğlu, represented their ideological frame of reference. He also understood that the Islamic state they call for establishing only resembles the Ottoman Empire in terms of oppression and backwardness. Most importantly, he has discovered that he could not manage their daily battles, that they would turn against him and spread sectarian chaos in Turkey, and that the "moderate opposition" (i.e. the National Coalition) did not have a popular base inside of Syria. As for his main allies in the Muslim Brotherhood, they are only a part of the opposition coalition, and their reaching power in Damascus will require sectarian civil wars that will surely spread to "the heart of the Caliphate" in Istanbul, the features of this having begun to appear in Ankara, İskenderun and other areas. More importantly, he has failed in his wager on the Muslim Brotherhood as represented by the Iraqi Islamist Party (IIP) in Iraq.
Erdoğan's dream was also dispelled in Egypt, after the failure of the Muslim Brotherhood there, the difficulties its' rule encountered in Tunisia and after Libya sank into chaos. This left him no choice but to take two steps back and prepare for the next phase, the features of which remain unclear. Indeed, his greatest ally, the United States, is reassessing all of its considerations in the region. It seeks to open up to Iran, is in the process of reaching an agreement with Russia to end the wars in Syria, and is engaged in constant dialogue with Moscow about sharing influence.
The Neo-Sultan had no choice left but to reorganize the cards he holds, and he thus offered the Kurds a few concessions. He abandoned some of his racism in hopes of avoiding their internal wars, which have been ongoing since the 1980s, especially as they have now opened up to Syria.
This is with regard to the long-term strategic game. At the level of domestic policy, on the other hand, Erdoğan is preparing to wage the elections, and he needs the inhabitants of Anatolia, who have in the past represented his party's human reserves, ever since Necmettin Erbakan was its leader, and before it changed its name.
The Kurds fear that the welcome Barzani is receiving in this region and the red carpet that is being rolled out for him are part of an electoral game at which the Muslim Brotherhood is skilled, and which its members are quick to renounce after it has "enabled" them to come to power.


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