Ninety-eight years ago on May 20, 1916, the French diplomat François Georges-Picot and British Sir Mark Sykes with Russian agreement concluded negotiations that would define each country’s spheres of influence and control in the Middle East should the Triple Entente succeed in defeating the Ottoman Empire during World War I. The Sykes-Picot agreement, combined with the Balfour Declaration that proposed separate Jewish and Palestinian states, has shaped the region and its politics for nearly 100 years.
With the current Iraqi government under siege from Sunni militants angered at their exclusion from the government and the maltreatment of the Sunni population, Sykes-Picot may now be in its death throws.
In the north the Kurds seized the oil rich city of Kirkuk which paves the way for them to break away from the Shia dominated government in Baghdad. In an surprise statement from an official member of the Turkey’s ruking party, Huseyin Celik said that the Kurds in Iraq have the right to self-determination.
The AKP 9Justice and Development Party) is the party of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan under whom Ankara and Erbil have built strong economic and diplomatic relations.
In case Iraq gets partitioned, said Celik, “the Kurds, like any other nation, will have the right to decide their fate.”
Celik believes that Iraq is already headed towards partition thanks to “Maliki’s sectarian policies.” [..]
“Turkey has been supporting the Kurdistan Region till now and will continue this support,” said Celik.
Turkey and Kurdistan have signed a 50-year energy deal and Kurdish oil is exported via a pipeline that connects the autonomous region to the port of Ceyhan on the Mediterranean.
Huffington Post‘s Ryan Grim and Sophia Jones further report
The Kurds have been effectively autonomous since 1991, when the U.S. established a no-fly zone over northern Iraq. Turkey, a strong U.S. ally, has long opposed the creation of an independent Kurdistan so that its own eastern region would not be swallowed into it. But Celik’s statement indicates that the country may be starting to view an autonomous Kurdistan as a viable option — a sort of bulwark against spreading extremism within a deeply unstable country. [..]
Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan have recently forged a strong bond over oil, much to the chagrin of Iraq, which claims that Baghdad has sole authority over oil in Kurdistan. Turkey recently signed a 50-year energy deal with Iraqi Kurdistan’s semi-autonomous government to export Kurdish oil to the north, and Kurdistan has increased its exports this week despite the insurgency by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. [..]
Considering the Turkish past opposition to an independent Kurdish state, this is an interesting reversal.
I suspect that Iraq’s creator, Gertrude Bell, is rolling over in her Baghdad grave.