If all goes to planMassoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government(KRG) will be paying his first official visit to Turkey next month. The deci-sion to invite the Kurdish leader is inline with recent moves designed toend over a decade of hostility betweenAnkara and the Iraqi Kurdish leader-ship. Friendship with the Iraqi Kurdsis one of the main pillars of Turkey’sattempts to solve its long-runningKurdish problem.Until recently Barzani, who is alsothe leader of the most powerfulIraqi Kurdish faction, the KurdistanDemocratic Party (KDP), was firmly embedded in Turkey’s official gallery of rogues. He was derided as a cocky tribal upstart who emboldened by U.S. support was accused of plottingagainst Turkey. Turkey’s hawkishgenerals would ever so often warnagainst the “red lines” that Barzanimust not breach. “Don’t try to grabKirkuk” or else... Don’t think aboutindependence or else…” The subtextwas that Turkey would invade theKurdish controlled enclave. Adefiant Barzani vowed to fight back.The potential for conflict betweena critical NATO ally, Turkey, and itsKurdish friends in Iraq was long asource of worry in Washington. Nowthe red lines are fading. Turkey ispreparing to roll out the red carpet forBarzani. The Kurds’ internationally respected leader is expected to meetwith Turkey’s Prime Minister RecepTayyip Erdoğan and perhaps even withPresident Abdullah Gül.During a recent trip to the IraqiKurdish enclave I was able to observefirsthand the dramatic shift in Anka-ra’s outlook. Turkey’s first ever ConsulGeneral to Erbil is among its mostpromising career diplomats. AydinSelcen cut short a tour in Washingtonto come to Erbil. In the old days Erbilwould have been viewed as a dumpingground for mediocre officers. Today it’s a good career move he says.Selcen has no hang-ups about callingthe Kurdish region “Iraqi Kurdistan” orBarzani its “President.” Until recently hewould have been accused, perhaps evenprosecuted, for doing so on charges of inciting ethnic separatism.There are several reasons for thechange. It comes after a prolonged
Turkey and the Iraqi Kurds: From Red Lines toRed Carpets
by Amberin Zaman*
May 14, 2010
Amberin Zaman is the Turkey correspondent for
and writes a weekly column for the Turkish daily
. The views ex-pressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF).
Summary: Next month’s expectedvisit of Massoud Barzani, presidentof the Kurdistan Regional Govern-
ment, to Turkey is a frst step ending
hostility between Ankara and theKurdish leadership and ending Turkey’s long-time Kurdish problem.One of the biggest propellers of
change has been ourishing trade
ties. Iraq is Turkey’s fourth largest trading partner. Most of this tradeis conducted with the Iraqi Kurds.The other major change in Turkey’srelations with the Iraqi Kurds is that they are no longer viewed through the PKK lens, but from an Iraq-wideperspective. Friendship with theIraqi Kurds allows Ankara to havea greater say in Baghdad. The IraqiKurdish and Turkish economies arealready tightly intertwined. Once the Iraqi Kurds strike an agreementwith Baghdad over the sharing of oilrevenues, they can start selling theirown oil and natural gas resources through Turkey. This virtuous cyclecan help alleviate poverty among Turkish Kurds. Yet, Ankara mustnever cede to the age-old temptationof playing one set of Kurds against the other.