Salem Alketbi

Iraqi sovereignty and Arab national security

الاثنين - 22 يونيو 2020

Mon - 22 Jun 2020

Already, the new Iraqi government of Mustafa Al Kazimi has its work cut out as Iran and Turkey mounted military operations on Iraqi territory. In reaction, the Iraqis have summoned the Iranian ambassador and handed him a note of protest.

According to a statement by Iraqi Foreign Affairs, “this call follows a bombing by Iranian artillery. The Iranian artillery bombardment hit Iraqi border villages in Haj Omran in the Erbil governorate on Tuesday, causing material losses, damage to property and sowing panic among the inhabitants of these areas.”

In the same breath, Baghdad asked Ankara to withdraw its troops from Iraqi territory and to ’renounce provocative actions’ the day after Turkey launched a ground offensive in the North under the pretext of pursuing members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

For all that, there is no realistic and acceptable justification for Iran and Turkey to conduct military operations in Iraq. Rather, we are witnessing a blatant aggression on Iraqi territory, a flagrant violation of Iraqi national sovereignty and a further twin attack on Arab national security.

My feeling is that the operations have been jointly coordinated by the Iranian and Turkish sides. They are testing the ground to see how the new Iraqi Government would react and the direction it would take. This is especially what Turkey wants to know, as it grasps the global concern of the fight against the coronavirus to achieve its regional ends. The moves we have seen bring home the need for the new Iraqi government to review this great Arab country’s policy towards Iran and Turkey in particular.

Both actors are serious about drawing Iraqi’s sovereignty over its territory tighter. Each counts on its own cards to win the wager: Iran has close relations with sectarian militias seeking to undermine Iraqi political will, as Al Kazimi himself has said, and Turkey is abusing the security agreements signed in different circumstances with previous Iraqi governments, arrogating to itself the right to intervene to hunt down PKK elements on Iraqi territory.

Some media reports have drawn attention to a discreet visit to Iraq by the head of the Turkish intelligence services, Hakan Fidan, just before military operations began. These reports link the Turkish operation to Fidan’s talks with the Iraqi Prime Minister. They suggest an Iraqi green light for the operation. But I do not think so.

Since taking office, al Kazimi has shown concern for Iraq’s sovereignty and non-interference in its internal affairs. It makes little sense, then, for him to preface his mission by giving the Turks permission to flout his country’s sovereignty for any reason whatsoever, especially in a regional climate marked by wariness of provocative Turkish interventions in Syria and Libya. Alternatively, the Turkish side has undertaken to do something but went beyond the limits of what was agreed, not surprising on the part of Erdoganian Turkey.

Erecting a new Iraq will not happen without a new sharp vision and strategy in managing relations with Turkey and Iran in particular, not least by consolidating Iraqi sovereignty.

All existing agreements that do not comply with or are contrary to the requirements of or infringe upon this sovereignty must be reviewed, whatever their objectives and merits may be. Our Iraqi brothers can make that assessment from the perspective of the interests of their country, the security of their citizens and their national duties


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