Barzani Greets Turkish Indecision on Troops
In an interview with al-Sharq al-Awsat in the United Arab Emirates, Massoud Barzani greeted the Turkish government’s new state of indecision about whether to send troops to Iraq as a positive sign. Barzani, a member of Iraq’s US-appointed Interim Governing Council and head of the Kurdish Democratic Party, said it was a sign that Turkey was finally beginning to understand the concerns of Iraqis and of Iraqi Kurds. He was referring to Turkish PM Erdogan’s statement that Turkey would only send troops if they were welcomed by the Iraqi people. Barzani reiterated his opposition to Turkish troops on Iraqi soil, especially in Iraqi Kurdistan. Asked why he had approved of Turkish incursions during the Saddam period, he said that those incursions were limited, of short duration, and aimed at curbing the influence of the Marxist PKK in Iraqi Kurdistan, a goal of which Barzani approved.
Asked if he had ambitions to be the president of the new Iraq, Barzani said such talk was premature, and anyway depended on the Iraqi people. He said his main immediate goal was to realize democracy and Federalism [in the sense of loose Federalism with much provincial autonomy] in Iraq. He also denied that the violence of guerrillas could be called a “resistance.” He dismissed it as mere terrorism, and said it aimed at denying key services, such as electricity and water, to ordinary Iraqis.
Barzani denied that the Interim Interior minister had expressed impatience about having no authority over Iraqi Kurdistan, which has its own governmental structures, developed while under the umbrella of the US no-fly zone in the 1990s. On Kirkuk, he insisted that Kurds expelled under Saddam be allowed to return and to regain their lost property, but he said this step must be taken without violence. He denied that there were Israeli secret agents in Iraqi Kurdistan, but pointed out that a number of Arab states recognize Israel. He said he hoped elections could be held in Iraq within a year.
In other news, Iran also expressed its opposition to Turkish troops in Iraq, unless the UN and a legitimate Iraqi government asked for them.
There were also widespread protests in Turkey on Sunday, in Ankara, Istanbul and other cities, against Turkey sending troops to Iraq. Many arrests were made. Many Turks feel that the US project in Iraq is a neo-colonial one, and object to Turkish troops being used to support it. Islamists are most likely to express such sentiments, and although the sitting government is not exactly Islamist, it does get Islamist votes and seeks a stronger position for Islam in Turkish society.