Turkey and Iran Carve Up a Ruptured Arab World

(Christian Science Monitor) Jason Pack and Martin van Creveld - Both the U.S. and Iran, mired in internal political and economic difficulties, are being outmaneuvered in the Middle East by an ascendant Turkey. Following the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, officials of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) of Iraq bemoaned their need for a regional patron to protect them from dominance by Baghdad. Iraqi Kurdistan also needs a conduit to export its oil to the West. The only country that can fulfill both roles is Turkey. That is why KRG officials, instead of supporting their ethnic brethren inside Turkey, have often sided with Ankara against the Kurdish separatist PKK. All this explains why a bombing on Dec. 28, in which the Turks killed 35 Kurdish smugglers whom they mistook for terrorists, provoked little outrage in Iraqi Kurdistan. On the streets of Erbil, the capital, there are no signs of protests against Turkey. Instead, one notices Turkey's ubiquitous presence in the form of construction, investment, consumer goods, and tourists. In the southern part of Iraq, the situation is just the opposite. There, a Shiite Arab buffer state, buttressed by Iran as a bulwark against Turkish, American, or Saudi encroachments, is being created. The last two weeks' events have removed any doubt that Prime Minister Maliki is "Iran's man" in Baghdad. In post-Arab Spring North Africa, too, Turkey and Iran have essentially partitioned the resurgent Islamist movements between themselves. The Turks support the victorious "moderate" Islamists from Tunisia to Egypt. Iran backs the Salafist spoilers, even though they are Sunni. Jason Pack researches Libyan history at Cambridge University. Martin van Creveld is a military historian.

2012-01-10 00:00:00

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