Iraq-Turkey: Iraq calls Turkey 'hostile state' as relations dim

Published: April 21, 2012

Maliki accused Turkey of trying to establish "hegemony" in the region. PHOTO: REUTERS

BAGHDAD: Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Friday branded Turkey a “hostile state” with a sectarian agenda, the latest in a series of bitter exchanges between the neighbors.       

Maliki was responding to comments made by Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday in which Erdogan accused the Iraqi leader of fanning tensions between the country’s Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds with his “self-centered” ways.

“The recent announcements by Mr. Erdogan represent another return to flagrant interference in Iraqi internal affairs,” Maliki said in a statement on his website.

“His announcements have a sectarian dimension. To insist on continuing these internal and regional policies will harm Turkish interests and make it a hostile state for all.”

Maliki accused Turkey of trying to establish “hegemony” in the region.

Sectarian tensions flared in Iraq in December when the Shiite-led government tried to remove Sunni Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq and sought an arrest warrant for Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi on charges he ran death squads.

Erdogan made his comments on Thursday after a meeting in Istanbul with Masoud Barzani, president of Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region, who has cultivated close relations with Ankara.         WORRIES OF WIDER CONFLICT

“(Maliki’s) self-centered ways … are seriously disturbing Shiite groups, Barzani and Iraqi groups,” Erdogan said.

Erdogan has warned before that Turkey, which is mainly Sunni but officially secular, would not remain silent if a sectarian conflict were to erupt in Iraq.

The city of Kirkuk is at the center of a dispute between the central government and the Kurdish region, which claims the city and the region’s rich oil reserves.

The rift between Baghdad and the Kurds recently worsened when the Kurdistan Regional Government said it was halting oil exports because the central government was not paying oil firms operating in the north.

Turkey is worried that the violence in Syria and growing tensions in Iraq could lead to a wider conflict between Shiite and Sunni Muslims in the region.

Iraq is Turkey’s second largest trading partner after Germany, with trade reaching $12 billion last year, more than half of which was with the Kurdistan region.

Reader Comments (7)

  • gujranwala987
    Apr 21, 2012 - 3:26PM

    Eventhough a relatively silent spectator for a long time Turkey has finally decided to assert its political influence in the region, it is going to be a nightmare for iran though which had an easy ride so far in iraq and syria.

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  • Apr 21, 2012 - 5:04PM

    Gujranwala!!!! Your comments are absolutely right. As the Turks have again started having the nostalgic ambitions of Usmani Empire and their interference in SYRIA is evident. May God help the whole region. Every new day will bring bad moments.

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  • Noise
    Apr 21, 2012 - 5:20PM

    Turkey is only going to gain Iraq as an enemy and plant it even more firmly in the Iranian boat, Iraq in a few years will be a major oil exporter and will become very very rich. Turkey will only harm itself by playing the role of American’s frontman in the region. It would to better to stand with it’s neighbors rather than constantly play the role of mercenary state.

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  • BlackJack
    Apr 21, 2012 - 8:12PM

    @Noise:
    You have come to the right conclusions for the wrong reasons. Iraq is the last Govt that the US would want to destabilize; it wants to show the world that despite its WMD fraud, it replaced a dictatorship with a stable democracy – and playing Erdogan’s game will not yield that result (a stable Iraq will also bring oil prices down – which is another goal that all the beleagured Western nations subscribe to). Erdogan on the other hand wants to undermine Turkey’s secular foundations and expand his ambit as a muslim leader of pan-Islamic proportions – this is a recipe for disaster. In the future (if Erdogan stays in power) you will see heightened tensions between Turkey and Europe, and possibly Turkey and NATO.

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  • Muhammad Al-Waeli
    Apr 21, 2012 - 10:44PM

    I think Barazani and Tariq Al-Hashimi stroke a really great deal with Turkey. And I think it has to do with the Oil in Kirkuk and other oil fields in Iraqi Kurdistan in return of helping the Kurds to remove Maliki from power.

    Short-sighted Turkish maneuver though. And a Kurdish one as well. If Maliki falls, the proposed substitutes are going to create more problems for the Turks and the Kurds. I would rethink their stance with Maliki.

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  • j. von hettlingen
    Apr 22, 2012 - 3:21AM

    Sectarian conflicts between Shias and Sunnis will destabilise the region, as they would also stoke unrest among the Kurds in Turkey. They would take advantage of the moment to break away from Turkey, which would be fiercely contested by the central government in Ankara.

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  • G. Din
    Apr 22, 2012 - 7:12PM

    Shias are a far more sensible and intellectually-gifted people and not given to Islamic-style aggression. But, that is exactly what sets them up as the victims of Sunni depredations worldwide! Recent history of conflict with Greece on the island of Cypress where, like Pakistan, Turks just went in and occupied a part of it bears this aggressive streak of Sunni Islam. The same Turkish Cypriots, on behalf of whom Turkey intervened before, now want to be back with the Greek Cypriots. Again, in a sharp about-turn from its friendship, it sent a ship to Israel with aggressive intent and as expected Israel called the Turkish bluff by bloodying the Turkish nose. Having been consistently spurned and rebuffed by Europe, Erdogan is following the dictum: “It is better to be a king of clowns rather than a clown amongst kings.” That explains the attempts at churning up the pot in Iraq. Those who think Turks are doing it at the behest of US couldn’t be more wrong.

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