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Does the Turkey-Russia-Iran deal mean Kurds are back to square one?

By Hemin Lihony 17/8/2016
Does the Turkey-Russia-Iran deal mean Kurds are back to square one?

Russian President Vladimir Putin was one of the first world leaders to call his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan only hours after the July failed coup attempt, expressing his full support for Ankara and his government. That phone call became the basis for a new understanding. On his visit to Moscow this month, Erdogan explicitly told Putin that his phone call on the night of the coup provided a psychological boost for him.


An understanding on resolving the Middle East crises, especially in Iraq and Syria, is fast coming into being among Turkey, Qatar, Russia and Iran. Saudi Arabia and the United States will not play a main acting role in this scene.  With regard to the US, the Obama administration seems intent on keeping out.


With built-up grievance and criticism against the West, Erdogan traveled to Moscow with a high-level delegation, where he had a day-long meeting with Putin and Russian officials.  There, it was decided that ties should return to where they were before they were soured by the shooting of a Russian fighter jet over Turkey, and that every aspect of relations should be better than ever before.


Soon after this Moscow visit, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif arrived in Ankara, where he and his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu warmly embraced more than once and were all talk of a new understanding between the two countries. According to Cavusoglu, most of the calls on the night of the coup were made to Zarif.


A day after Zarif’s visit, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim invited his country’s media for a conference where he told them: “If you see significant changes in the coming months in Syria, don’t be shocked and be prepared!”


Turkey feels it is imperative to find a way to come out of the diplomatic isolation it had recently faced. Turkish leaders expected great support and sympathy from their US and NATO allies in the aftermath of the shooting down of the Russian jet. But there was no such response. The refugee and migrant crisis only further complicated Turkey’s relations with Europe.


Like a wounded tiger, Erdogan is now after scoring politically against Europe and he sees no better field for that game than that of Russia. Not only has his luster for the EU vanished, even leaving NATO has now become a subject.


The shooting down of the Russian jet cost Turkey $10 billion and a 43 percent decline in its trade ties with Russia.


Russia for its part is seeking to fill the vacuum left by the US, particularly its nonintervention in Syria and a similar one in Turkey. It is Putin’s dream to weaken NATO at any cost and by any means, and Turkey is a good start both as a NATO member and as a corridor for Russian natural gas.


Above all, Russia and Iran must find a political settlement in Syria and save themselves from the giant expenditure they have undertaken in support of Bashar Assad’s regime. For this they need Turkey, and Ankara is more than happy to become part of this new equation and act as an envoy of the West.


The heart of the Turkey-Russia-Iran meetings is: Iraq and Syria’s territorial integrity, a political settlement for Syria, hitting ISIS and the Nusra Front (now called Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham), strengthening economic ties -- especially the energy sector -- and the establishment of a joint defense mechanism.


As far as the Kurds are concerned, this means they will be pushed back to their state of several years ago. In Turkey the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) will be compelled to return to the peace process and quit its dream of self-rule and violence.


In Syria, the Kurdish region will be seen as an inseparable part of that country: the autonomous Cantons will be dashed, entered into the political process and likely included in the Geneva talks. As a first indicator of this scenario, Salih Muslim, head of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), has already told Russian media that he is ready for friendly ties with Turkey.


This new Middle East alliance will similarly impress upon the Kurdistan Region the integrity of Iraq, and through Turkey they will apply pressure for the postponement of the referendum and Kurdish independence project. There will be pressure on Erbil to resume ties with Baghdad and keep the country’s stability. In return, Turkish companies will find themselves invited to the world of post-ISIS reconstruction.


Well-placed sources have revealed that the Iranians had told a visiting KRG delegation that the new deal with Turkey is of the highest importance because they see that as the only remaining hope for stability in the region, and that they are also against an independence referendum and a Kurdish state.


Turkey is willing to help Iran keep Iraq’s territorial integrity and Iran would do the same in Syria.


In realpolitik terms, central governments -- weak though they may be -- still have a say in their countries’ affairs and internationally they will be preferred over regional and non-state actors. 


The fruit of this new rapprochement shall be seen in the next six months, and its work has already kicked off. The Ankara-Moscow operation room is active and in daily contact. Iraqi and Turkish delegations have also already met twice in a European country to normalize ties.


All eyes are now trained on the next six months because, as Iran’s Zarif said in a tweet from Ankara: “More cooperation for peace is ahead.”

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Rudaw.


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American | 17/8/2016
Money talks. Look at Israel, every one of it's neighbors opposed it yet it has become debatably the most powerful nation in the middle east. To the Kurds, continue working on getting rich through import restrictions; contrary to free trade ideologues assertions, Japan, South Korea, Germany, and the US pre-World War 2 were very protectionist and created an environment where infant industries could continue to develop and be protected from foreign companies that had a several decade R&D advantage. Also, an export tariff on oil should be explored. This will make oil artificially cheap within Kurdistan's borders and hence attract manufacturing. China has export tariffs on raw materials, and so did the US from it's founding to World War 2. Policies that restrict both import of manufactured goods and export of raw materials lead to a nation becoming a manufacturing powerhouse, and it's associated wealth.
FAUthman | 17/8/2016
This is a very valuable column. Though only an opinion it makes a very persuasive case for a possible new regional order with Russia Turkey and Iran as the major players. This may be what Hillary's administration would have to live with or probably is willing to accept. IF so the US is exiting the Middle East arena altogether. CENTCOM will not go along with that however, and do not expect Hillary to have a timid US foreign policy and show little resolve here and just turn over Incirlik to Putin. This can go either way!
Hersh | 18/8/2016
Like most other agreements between despots this new deal will collapse at one point. Erdogan has grand ambitions, Putin even bigger ambitions and the Mullah regime in Iran more ambitions than Turkey and Russia combined, the likelihood of all 3 giving up their ultimate goals and ambitions is ZERO. You have other factors, the Untied States might be holding a low profile for now but that can change quickly. It would also be very foolish to count other powerful regional actors like Saudi Arabia, Israel and Egypt out as if they don't have a say.
Gun tamtamma | 18/8/2016
This new axis of evil is not only a threat to kurds but to other countries like Israel. And to NATO. Be sure that kurds will not give up their land which they've liberated from Daash with blood so if the tyrants in Tehran and Ankara want our land they will have go to war with us
Hejar | 18/8/2016
I don't believe the Kurds should panic because that's exactly what the Turks want and mistakes are made when one panics. Although, It is now time for KRG to realize it has been played by Turkey all along and stop this anti-pyd/PKK rhetoric. I do agree with much of your assessment with regards to Turkish strategy about future regional dynamics but I disagree all the other actors are going to sing Ankara's tune so easily. Turkey is isolated and is now itself being played by mentioned governments due to Erdogans ego. The main Kurdish strategy in all parts should be about foiling Turkish plans because if they can do that, all the other pieces will fall into place. Assad taught them a lesson in that arena. Turkey has revealed its hand too much recently and the international powers will not allow the Turks to continue and hold them hostage on various issues. In the other hand, Kurds have revealed they can be trusted partners who simply want to control their own destiny. The world sees that and will continue to support it. The main obstacles for Kurds are internal divisions and their tendency to allow regional governments influence their decision-making. That needs to stop, especially when referring to governments that have large Kurdish populations. It makes me think of a person shooting their foot to get a bandage for their arm. Unity can defeat the majority of enemy tactics. Kurds need to urgently wake up to this critical realization.
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