OPINION

From northern Iraq… to Cyprus?

US President George W. Bush moved into Baghdad because certain individuals convinced him that he should shake things up in the Middle East and impose a Western-style democratic model on the region. And the Iraq invasion did indeed shake up the situation, but not only has it failed to bring democracy to the Middle East, it has undermined it in the model state of Lebanon. The question now is what tomorrow will bring and what this will mean for Greece. Most US commentators believe that the division of Iraq into three states is inevitable. Practically, this means that over the next two or three years an autonomous Kurdish state will take shape in northern Iraq. There are many in Ankara who shudder at such a thought. In the nationalist mythology of the Turks, the oil-rich cities of Mosul and Kirkuk were parts of the Turkish state before being cut off by the British in 1920. The idea of a Kurdish nation provokes grave concern in Turkey’s deep state as this could be a pretext for the Kurds to rise up against Turkey and also because it would signal a definitive loss of northern Iraq’s oil resources. Washington knows that the scenario of Iraq’s division could trigger a serious conflict within Turkey. An American army officer, with great experience of the region, recently remarked, «I can easily see a conflict between Turkey’s generals, who want to mobilize thousands of troops along the border with northern Iraq, and with (Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip) Erdogan, who would prefer to remain calmer.» In any case, Washington is sure to pay Turkey a lot of attention over the next few months. Its basic concern will be to keep the Turks satisfied on as many fronts as possible and to avoid extreme scenarios. The truth is that Washington cannot rely on Ankara as a steady, reliable ally anymore. The generals, who were traditionally predictable negotiating partners, have lost some of their power and Erdogan is playing them. The USA, in its effort to keep Turkey under control, will do all it can to appease it. It is certain that Washington will start off with Cyprus and exert pressure for a new United Nations initiative aimed at reunifying the divided island and a new form of recognition for the Turkish Cypriots. Nicosia will have to explain to the international community why – after more than 50 years – it no longer wants UN mediation. It will be a difficult period. Nicosia knows this, Athens is anticipating it and the question is whether both the Greeks and the Cypriots can come up with some smart moves that will avert the worst.