Professor says Turkey is not interested in annexing Kurdistan Region
Dr. Zheger Hassan believes Turkey has a lot of influence in the Kurdistan Region and as a result, there is no need to add it to its own soil.

These days, Turkey is continuing its attacks on the Kurdistan Region of Iraq under the pretext of the presence of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in this region; also there are political tensions over the formation of the new Iraqi government, differences between Baghdad and Erbil over the main sources of oil and gas, and the internal disputes of the Kurds, among others.

Kurdpress News Agency has interviewed Dr. Zheger Hassan, a professor at King's College Canada and an expert on Kurdish issues, to investigate these issues.

What follows is his full answers to Kurdpress questions

Some experts and officials like the U.N representative in Iraq, have warned that if the current problems are nor resolved in the KRG (among them corruption, tension with Baghdad, Turkey attacks, ...), there will be no such an entity in Iraq, are the warnings serious?

Officials from foreign governments (such as the US and EU representatives) and international organizations (such as the UN) have previously made similar comments about the Kurdish region and about Iraq as a whole. These officials do not fully appreciate the internal constraints and considerations that the KRG faces when making important political and economic decisions as it relates to its relationship with Baghdad. As we know, the Kurdish region is divided between the KDP and the PUK controlled areas; we also that the KDP and the PUK are also internally divided; and we know that the population of the Kurdish region has certain demands and expectations. As such, it is not easy for the KRG to make important decisions that will have consequences for the entire Kurdish region. From the UN's perspective, dialogue and compromise should take place between the KRG and Baghdad, but this position fails to consider the long history (including since 2003) of mistrust and broken promises between the KRG and Baghdad. The Kurds, therefore, have to tread very carefully when it comes to negotiating Baghdad - the Kurdish region cannot compromise on its political and economic autonomy. The UN must understand this reality.


Lahore Talabani had a tough stance on the Iraqi Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), and it seems that the current PUK leader Baffel Talabani is not willing to compromise with the KDP too? What's the reason behind the policy?

As we know, the PUK is experiencing infighting between the various factions in the party. We also know that the PUK’s main rival is the KDP. If Mr. Lahore Talabani appears to take a tougher stance on the KDP than Mr. Bafel Talabani, this may undermine support for Mr. Bafel Talabani with PUK members and supporters. Therefore, Mr. Bafel Talabani must demonstrate a strong opposition to the KDP to maintain his position (and his PUK faction’s position) as the most viable opposition to the KDP.    


Turkey bombs all parts of the Kurdistan region, but there is no opposition from the international community or KRG. Why?

Turkey’s military operations and bombing of areas in the Kurdish region of Iraq do not receive condemnation from the international community party because the justification from Turkey is that the bombing is targeting PKK targets. The PKK is designated as a terrorist group by Turkey, many EU members, and the US. As such, it is difficult for the international community to criticize Turkey for these operations.  

As for the KRG, again, it is difficult for the KRG to seriously denounce Turkey’s operations in the Kurdish region. There are at least two reasons for this. First, the KRG has prioritized political and economic ties with Turkey, and, as such, the KRG is willing to tolerate Turkish incursions into its territory. Second, the KRG is unhappy with the presence and activities of the PKK in the Kurdish region. The presence of the PKK, from the KRG perspective, has created instability in the Kurdish region and we know that there is a history of hostility between the PKK and the KDP.  


Is Turkey preparing for the reunification of the Iraqi Kurdish region with Ottoman Empire territories?

If the question is whether Turkey will annex the Kurdish region of Iraq, I believe that the answer is no. I do not believe that there is any interest in annexing the Kurdish region into Turkey. After all, the Kurdish region is already in Turkey’s sphere of influence and so Turkey exercises a great deal of political and economic influence over the Kurdish region. What would be the benefit of annexing it?  


Can Baghdad control Kurdistan's oil?

This is constitutional and legal question that will continue to be a source of tension between Baghdad and the KRG. The dispute over oil and natural resources will not be resolved anytime soon and neither side will ever be completely satisfied with the arrangement. To answer your question more directly, no, I do not believe that Baghdad can control Kurdistan’s oil. The constitution is ambiguous on this matter and the KRG will continue to demand its legal right to control its own natural resources.  


Is the KDP responsible for the current political stalemate in Iraq?

I believe that all parties share responsibility for the stalemate in Iraq. Indeed, Iraq’s political system and institutions were deliberately created in a way to furnish each faction with mechanisms to advance their interests. This system of consociational democracy often leads to gridlock and the kind of stalemate that we are witnessing. This is not surprising. Certainly, the KDP shoulders some of the responsibility for this stalemate, but other factions are also involved in this process.

Reporter's code: 50101