Kurdish journalist Kamal Chomani spoke to Özgür Paksoy of Mezopotamya News Agency on the increasingly strong relations between Iraqi Kurdistan’s ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Turkish administration, and how this has turned into open collaboration in Turkey’s military operations in Iraqi soil.
Stating that the strong economic, political and military relations between Turkish administrations and the KDP date back to 1980s, Chomani said:
“These relations became much stronger in the early 1990s when Turkey tried to involve the KDP in the war against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). During that time, the PKK had offices in Erbil [Hewlêr]. The KDP attacked the PKK in 1996. A civil war broke out between the two. The KDP assasinated PKK members, and even carried out attacks that amounted to massacres. Dozens of PKK guerrillas lost their lives in the attacks of the KDP.”
Economic partnership leading to close ties
Noting that the relations between the KDP and Turkey improved in the process, Chomani added:
“Their relations staggered in the early 2000s, because Turkey was aggressive against the Kurdistan Region at that time, and the relations between the PKK and the KDP were not that bad. According to WikiLeaks documents, in a letter sent by Masoud Barzani to George Bush, the former called for protection for the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) against the aggressions of the Turkish army. Interestingly, Masoud Barzani said that Turkey attacked not only the PKK, but also the Kurdish identity, ethnicity, and Kurdish organisations. The situation began to change when Turkey developed its relations with the KRI on the basis of economic partnership, especially after gas and oil resources were discovered in the Kurdistan Region and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) began to sell gas and oil to Turkey.”
“The relations between Turkey and the KDP have been largely shaped by two issues. The first one is the security issue for Turkey concerning its war against the PKK, and the second one is the economic relations developed around gas and oil resources. Turkey and the KRG signed a 15-year gas agreement in 2011. This agreement mostly involves the Barzani family. However, nobody in the Kurdistan Region actually knows too much about the contents of this agreement.”
Indicating that Turkey’s presence in the KRI has increased after the AKP administration’s return to war policy in 2015, Chomani said:
“ISIS attacked Iraq and Northeast Syria. Subsequently, Turkey began to expand strategically in the region. The most significant assistance to Turkey in Iraq has been provided by the KDP. Turkey tends to make use of this partnership in its fight against the PKK. It also wants to assume control over the gas and national resources in the KRI (…) The KDP has economic and financial interests [in this partnership] as well. It is a very conservative and patriarchal political party, and has always considered the PKK, a progressive party, as a threat. The PKK focuses on women’s rights, social and economic justice, equality, and socialism. This is a threat to the KDP.”
Chomani stated that the KDP has turned into a ‘mercenary’ of Turkey as the latter launched its latest incursion into Iraqi Kurdistan on the 17th of April.
“The main reason for this is economic. The KDP wants to export the national resources of the KRI, oil and gas, to Turkey. The status and image of the KDP in the KRI is quite bad actually. The government is collapsing (…) The KDP believes that, sooner or later, the people in the KRI will begin to revolt against them. The KDP wants protection. As long as they have Turkey’s support, they think it will serve as a guarantee for them.”
“Turkey has more than 30 military bases in the KRI. This is an expression of the existential interests of the KDP. Turkey and the KDP have substantial profits to make in the international market through oil and gas exports of the KRI. Both the Turkish companies close to Erdoğan [Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan] administration and the KDP benefit from the exploitation of the national resources in the KRI, while the people of Kurdistan suffer. The KRG even faces difficulties in paying salaries.”
Masrour Barzani’s collaboration and ambitions
Referring to the meeting between KRG’s prime minister Masrour Barzani and Erdoğan on April 14, Chomani said:
“There were two reasons for the recent meeting between Barzani and Erdoğan. The first is concerned with the issue of oil and gas. There are discussions on how Turkey can benefit from the gas in Iraqi Kurdistan. Secondly, they informed Barzani of their attack on the PKK. So the operation began. Erdogan needs this war since there are elections in 2023. They have also forced the opposition to express support for the military operations.”
“Unfortunately, the KDP and the Barzani family came to the aid of Turkey, and especially Masrour Barzani is cooperating in favour of the war. President Nechirvan Barzani was also helping Turkey, but now, Masrour Barzani is doing more since he seeks further strong relations with the Erdogan family, and wants to extend his control over the oil and gas controlled by Nechirvan Barzani.”