It's Time for Turkey To End Its Occupation of Iraqi Kurdistan

Under the leadership of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davatoğlu, Turkey has pursued a policy of good relations with all its neighbors. Well, almost.

It has de-mined its border with Syria, tripled trade with Iran, established diplomatic relations with Armenia and reduced its military activities in the Aegean Sea in order to ameliorate Greece. Yet, while Ankara often rebuffs Western concerns about its increasingly warm relations with Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, and Hamas with reference to its desire to have no problems with its neighbors, Turkey inexplicably has taken no action to end its more than two decade-long occupation of Iraqi Kurdistan.

Certainly, Turkey withdrew its Peace Monitoring Force component from Erbil in 2004, years after the Kurdish civil war ended, but the Turks continue to maintain armed outposts and camps in Amadiya, Bamerne, Sheladiz and Kani Masi. Such a presence is an affront both to Iraqi sovereignty and to Iraqi Kurdistan.

Kurds should not let Turkish diplomats and politicians simply blame the Turkish military or "Deep State." Erdoğan and his allies have dominated Turkish politics long enough and have overruled Turkish military concerns elsewhere. Where there is a will, there is a way. Nor does the Kurdish terrorist threat Turkey cites justify maintaining bases: After all, Erdoğan has made clear in Gaza and elsewhere that cross-border terrorism does not justify military occupation.

Masud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan Region, does Iraqi Kurdistan no favors by staking a tough position in the Iraqi Kurdish media, but being quite conciliatory toward the Turks during his visits to Washington and Ankara. If the Kurdish leadership were to demand forcefully that Turkish forces leave Iraqi territory, they might find themselves successful. At the very least, they would remind the international community that Turkey is not the peacemaker it claims to be. Perhaps the call could be taken up by the significant Kurdish communities in Sweden, Germany, and elsewhere in Europe. If Turkey wishes to join Europe or simply have diplomatic credibility in the region, it must end its occupation in Iraqi Kurdistan now.

Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at AEI

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About the Author

 

Michael
Rubin


  • Michael Rubin is a former Pentagon official whose major research areas are the Middle East, Turkey, Iran and diplomacy. Rubin instructs senior military officers deploying to the Middle East and Afghanistan on regional politics, and teaches classes regarding Iran, terrorism, and Arab politics on board deploying U.S. aircraft carriers. Rubin has lived in post-revolution Iran, Yemen, both pre- and post-war Iraq, and spent time with the Taliban before 9/11. His newest book, Dancing with the Devil: The Perils of Engagement examines a half century of U.S. diplomacy with rogue regimes and terrorist groups.


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