Interview with Iraqi Turkmen Front Turkey Representative Hicran KazancıMarch 18, 2012 at 10:52 am | Posted in Turkmens | Leave a comment
Tags: Hicran Kazanci interview, Iraqi Turkmen Front, Turkey and Iraqi Turkmens, Turkmen's contribution
Interview with Iraqi Turkmen Front Turkey Representative Hicran Kazancı
Can you assess the internal and external policies of the Turkmen during the new phase?
Ever since 2003 Iraq has been going through difficult and painful times. The negative impact left by the Saddam administrations is still strongly felt in social, cultural, political and economic areas. Iraq, which has not been able to achieve the progress it deserves in spite of all its natural and human resources as the result of the wars and insurgence, is going through a major changing process. This change process has had a major impact on such diverse areas as the administrative structure of the country to relations of political parties, from the role of the state in the economy to the relationship between ethnic and sectoral groups in the structure of the community.
The Turkmen are also receiving their share from this transition and change process. During recent years Turkmen have contributed to the Iraqi political life by undertaking various important duties in many parties and trends. It is now possible to see Turkmen in the upper echelons of the Iraqi bureaucracy as well as major parties. Naturally this situation is the result of the rich social life and activeness of the Turkmen in politics. However, this point should be accepted with candor; in spite of all the mistakes made in the past the Iraqi Turkmen Front (ITF) is the most powerful, organized, extensive and active political party established by the Turkmen in Iraq. Today no matter where you go in Iraq it is possible to come across the ITF. ITF endeavors to serve within the majority of the Turkmeneli region within the scope of its resources. The ITF, which entered a shell changing phase in line with the change which took place in Iraq after the occupation, has commenced on a significant ascension process during the recent period. In the general elections of Iraq which took place on 07 March 2010 the ITF which obtained the right to send 6 MP’s to the parliament has also started a process of change within the party recently and as a result today ITF is more encompassing than ever with the dynamism resulting from the convergence of its young leadership and experienced politicians. The new phase is a time when diversities must be held together in harmony, when the Turkmen can have single voice and take steps together towards a common goal. At a time when Iraq is being rapidly rebuilt it is vital that the Turkmen have a clear idea of what they want, establish strategic goals and follow a policy of taking determined steps in this direction. As a result of the need for this strategy we are obliged to make recommendations for these concrete steps.
Where are the Turkmen in the political equation of contemporary Iraq?
The fact that the Turkmen are the third element in Iraq must not be forgotten. For this reason it is necessary that we take our place in the decision mechanism of Iraq after the Arabs and the Kurds. It is also mandatory in terms of the geopolitical, sociopolitical and historical facts of Iraq. As the ITF, we have raised the bar of political and economic expectations of the Iraqi Turkmen to match this reality. In addition, when universal human rights and the rights and freedoms of equal citizenship as a constitutional right are taken into consideration it is clear that the Turkmen must be actively involved in the politics of Iraq. For this reason the public is not overwhelmed when our enhanced expectations are not fully realized. At the same time since the current politics in Iraq are unfortunately governed by ethnic and sectoral identities it is difficult to even enforce some articles which are in the constitutional law of Iraq.
The reality of the situation which needs to be recognized by all is that the Turkmen have started to become a part of the political mechanism and decision making elements of Iraq. In other words the Turkmen have become a significant main factor and game setter in Iraq. One of the main reasons for this is that Turkey is an increasingly growing and valued power in the region. Having such a steady powerful spiritual support behind us has made the Turkmen a significant factor and game setter in Iraq. Another major reason is that the Turkmen represent a territorial sovereignty in Iraq; in addition it is an advantage for us that policies are not based on either Sunni or Shiite identities and thus political tensions based on ethnic-sectoral issues are not a consideration. In this context we are obliged to work to enhance our representation rate in the Baghdad based government and focus on increasing our representative numbers in the Arbil based government. In parallel with these efforts we are obliged to give special care to Telafer. The reason for this is that Telafer is significant to the unity and integrity of Turkmen. All these activities must be applied as a package, that is simultaneously. Doing one and concentrating on another while postponing the rest will do more harm than good.
You spoke the rising power of Turkey and that Turkey stood behind the Turkmen. Could you elaborate this subject for us? What is the level of support provided by Turkey to the Turkmen?
Yes, Turkey is a constant spiritual power behind us. Anything which can be attributed as positive and beneficial executed after the Saddam administration in Iraq was implemented on account of Turkey. Decisions favoring Turkmen such as the postponement of the Kirkuk referendum, deletion of article 23 from the Local Elections Law which envisaged equal administrative sharing in Kirkuk, increasing the representation rate of our members of parliament, entering the Iraqi Parliament were all achieved with the spiritual support of Turkey. In other words the rising power of Turkey has always been an inspiration to us Turkmen and made us feel safe.
During our visit to President Abdullah Gül he said to us: “The Iraqi Turkmen are our bridge to the other strata in Iraq. All the people there are our brothers but the Turkmen are kin, we have an emotional connection.” This statement made by the President of the Republic of Turkey proves the statements I made above.
A national conference is planned to resolve the most recent crisis in Iraq. Do you think this conference will resolve the crisis?
As you know one of the most important reasons of this political crisis is that none of the agreements made at the Arbil Conference in December of 2010 were realized. The most significant one was that Iyad Allavi, the leader of the El Iraqi list was going to become of the head of the Supreme Strategy Council which was to be established after the formation of the government. Since this did not realize İyad Allavi is continuing his struggle because he feels that he has been expelled from the political equation of Iraq. There is no such thing in Iraq as opposition. The reason for the lack of opposition is that each political group has an armed group and whenever a political crisis accumulates these armed groups are mobilized. Since the beginning the ITF has called for the dissolution of these armed groups. The reason for the crisis is the failure to act on the decisions taken at the previous Arbil conference. Endeavoring to resolve this crisis with another national conference is nothing more than a waste of time.
A political crisis which is progressively deepening is taking place in Iraq after the withdrawal of the US troops. The reason for this is the lack of confidence among all the political groups in Iraq. Another reason is the fact that political struggle is based on ethnicity which makes it difficult to resolve the emerging political crises. It is significant for Ankara that this conference is executed in such an environment. A look at the situation shows that the power of Turkey is increasing in Iraq and the region. There are parties which are disturbed by Turkey’s position in the Middle East. Turkey does not have any conflicting thoughts about the region any more. It has a certain strategy. Turkey never fostered a role and political attitude promoting disorder, disruptiveness, discrimination or separation in Iraq. Quite the opposite, all ethnic groups have been supported in a constructive way. This can be observed from the efforts in the last elections which were made to ensure that all parties participate in the establishment of a national government.
Turkey is observing this conference closely and doing everything in its power to ensure that it is a success. In addition, the Turkmen are involved. From now on the Turkmen will not be excluded from any efforts to resolve problems in Iraq. This situation has indicated that problems cannot be solved if Turkmen are excluded. I hope that this will resolve the lack of confidence among all the political groups in Iraq with goodwill and Iraq achieves political stability.
What can be done to achieve political stability in Iraq?
Stability will be achieved in Iraq when the sources of instability are eliminated. It is necessary to eliminate these sources as well as ethnic and sectoral polarization and additionally balance the regional interventions. Especially some regional states using their connections in Iraq create major problems. That is why it is important to establish a balancing mechanism between the states in the region. At this point it might be feasible to reinstate the “initiative of neighboring countries of Iraq” which was launched previously by Turkey. In the other hand the establishment of a “Iraq or Middle East Stability Pact” similar to the Balkan Stability Pact may become contemporary. In addition, it may be useful to involve regional organizations and mechanisms such as the Islamic Conference Organization, the Arab League, Gulf Cooperation Council. However, the most important feature at this point is to refrain from utilizing ideological issues. If the balance is disrupted this may destabilize Iraq even further. Perhaps the most significant reason for the instability in Iraq is the inability to resolve the security issues. It was assumed that with the withdrawal of US troops security in Iraq would increase whereas it seems to be getting worse. One of the major factors is that each ethnic, sectoral and political groups have an armed force. One of the most important features to stop the activities of these forces is to establish a balanced and strong central government. However, it is also necessary to prevent corporate corruption. An ethnic balance must be restored in some state security units. The contribution of international military and security organizations such as NATO or AGİT can be accepted in this subject.
Another important point is to ensure that the revenue from the petroleum is distributed fairly. As long the political groups and formations in Iraq view each other with suspicion this is not about to happen. For this reason it may be significant at this stage that the sharing of petroleum in Iraq is overseen by an international independent body. This does not mean that Iraq shall once more be under the mandate of an international supervisory body. This means only that for example a program for a mechanism for Iraq similar to those made by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for the countries in its organization is prepared. It may be beneficial to cooperate to study exemplary modellings of states and benefit from the experiences of these states in terms of the applied policies. On the other hand the lack of production in Iraq has reached peak level. Almost everything is imported. For this reason international investors must be lured into the country. It may contribute to the economic stability of Iraq to establish an organization such as the Black Sea economic cooperation organization or a regional common Customs Union or free-trade area.
Let us widen our area a bit further and step outside Iraq. How do you assess the recent developments in the Middle East?
For many people, particularly westerners, the Middle East is a region associated with problems and fostering terror. However, an examination of the geographical characteristics reveals a completely different panorama from the perceived image. The Middle East is the cradle of all civilizations as well as the descension of all monotheistic religions. In addition, one third of the world’s total petroleum reserves are in the Middle East and these petroleum and natural gas reserves form an important export corridor into the external world.
The problems which have become chronic in the Middle East today are based on the events in the past. In other words, the political system of the international platform in general and in the Middle East in particular was established by those who triumphed in the Second World War. It Hitler’s Germany had won the war we would be talking about a completely different political order today. This political system which was erected by countries such as the United Kingdom and France and later designed by the US are based on the rule of minorities. To give a few examples the ruling power of Iraq during the Saddam regime was with the Sunnis although most of Iraq’s population consists of Shiites. Again, Syria is ruled by Shiites although the majority consists of Sunni citizens. In Libya Colonel Kaddafi’s tribe was the smallest one but still they were the dominant party. This situation is valid for many countries in the region.
Nowadays the Middle East is observed as a center for Money. The economic crisis in Euro Region countries such as Ireland, Portugal and Greece and the United Kingdom once described as “the country of the never setting sun” has brought the banks to the verge of bankruptcy and lead to a financial crisis in Europe and the USA. This has caused the center of money to flow from Europe to the Middle East. China, the rising power during the recent past, needs almost 65% of Middle Eastern petroleum to continue its giant economy. There are dictators in these countries who do not allow foreigners to invest. There is a well known political equation. A dictator oppresses the people. If freedom is brought to the country the people will reject the dictator and first the leader will be changed followed by the regime. One the new regime is incepted the country will allow foreign investment and necessary permissions will be given. So in those countries the cards are dealt again. Those who were victorious in the second world war are struggling to get a bigger share. If France had invested 20 billion in Libya as it has in Turkey, would Sarkozy attack Libya?
How would you assess the Middle East within the framework of the Arab Spring?
In the globalizing world when countries are ruled with a strict nation state mentality they are obliged to struggle with realities and finally are doomed to disappointment. This is evident in Arab countries. It is evident that the administrations of countries which are being swept with the winds of the Arab Spring are those countries which endeavored to implement the same mentality which was applied in Iraq during the Saddam regime. They claim populism, they claim to have the support of the people yet refuse to recognize the rights and freedoms granted by the constitution to those speaking a different language, admitting to a different sect. The groups holding the reigns of power have discarded the basics of equality and started to drive sectoral policies. It was said that the winds of the Arab Spring would sweep the region with democracy and human rights. However, at this point it is evident that a conflict between the Shiite and Sunni are in the making. The efforts to extend this situation into the Middle East region are executed through Iraq. The mechanism has accelerated into a Sunni-Shiite combat in Iraq. We see the same thing in Lebanon. When the roots of problems are ignored the problems get deeper.
How to you assess the developments in Syria which is a neighbor to Turkey as well as Iraq?
Here like in Libya if western countries do not support those opposing the Head of State Beşşar Esad the uncertainly process will be extended. Syria was the scene of the first military coup in the Middle East. Syria which achieved its independence in 1956 experienced a military coup in 1949. The existing regime came to power in 1963. In 1966 the hawk wing of the Baas party gained supremacy. In 1970 Hafız Esad seized power and established a dominant network based on the foundation of the Baas Party. The common name given to the army and intelligence units who were the main patrons of this power network was El-Muhabarat. There are four different intelligence units. These are political and security units, civilian intelligence, traditional military intelligence and the most feared and most powerful one of air intelligence. The reason for this is that Hafız Esad who was involved in the 1963 coup was commander of the air forces. This is the reason why no military coups took place in Syria after 1963. A strong organization against the people was established. On the other hand, there is the 240 strong Syria Security Council was established in Istanbul in August of 2001, the Syria National Committee which organizes internal insurgencies and the weak Free Syria Army. We see the struggle of a group which has not been well organized. As was the case with Libya, if the West does not provide support the process will be extended. Obama takes a different attitude. During the Bush regime there was an understanding of direct action; military was dispatched. This is not happening here. He himself remains in the background while supporting the groups and frankly inciting the people to turn on each other.
Where do you place Turkey in the Middle East?
As a result of the internal policies as well as the foreign policy model executed by Turkey during this period it has become practically a unique country in the world. This is because while on one hand the AK party administration promotes Islamic issues, on the other they are endeavoring to structure a country with a more liberal understanding of democracy and promote modernism. In addition, Turkey has the characteristics to be a “North Star” for the countries in the region for finding the right path rather than be a model country. Because of the sensitivity of its geographically strategic location, the cooperation of Turkey with the countries in the region will not remain on the economic level, it will cover areas of interdependency such as security. Turkey has the ability to conduct its political, economic and cultural relations with Arab Moslem states through various manners and channels which do not affect its ties with western countries. In the recent past Turkey has continued to maintain its national interests in addition to upholding universal human rights with both the Arab world as well as the West benefits; the relations with Arab countries are based on a flexible and multi-choice policy based on a pragmatic basis rather than a policy based on an idée fixe standpoint. It endeavors to promulgate human values. Within this framework Turkey endeavors to cooperate with the countries in such a way which promotes the continuance of such ties. Geographically the proximity of the Middle East to Turkey with a large consumer market and large energy sources is a positive and commercial option for Turkey. On the other hand, if the political and economic reforms which promote the development of democracy are realized and the Middle Eastern countries achieve stability, confidence and peace, they may benefit and/or make an example of the characteristics of Turkey with its secular regime, liberal economy experience and being Muslim.
Thank you for sharing your views with us.
I thank you for giving me this opportunity and wish you success in your work.