Sunday, December 18, 2011

Americans are out; Turkish-Iranian power struggle begins

Iraqi Sunni Vice President Tareq Hashemi, and chairman of Al-Jazeera Sheikh Hamad bin Thamer al-Thani attend Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s book-signing ceremony in Doha, Qatar.

I have a new piece in Today’s Zaman today about widening rift between Turkey and Iran and the subject matter concerns a topic that I’ve been extensively writing about this week, which I believe is one of the biggest stories that needs to be carefully analyzed.

On the day when last American troops left Iraq, power struggle between Sunnis, mainly backed by Turkey and Saudi Arabia, and Shiites, supported by Iran and current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, seems to be resurfacing back. Maliki reportedly ordered an arrest warrant for two of his Sunni vice presidents, including Tareq Hashemi, a good friend of Turks.

One of my colleagues once quipped that Hashemi got used to Turkey to the extent that he spends his holidays not at home but in Istanbul. It is true that Turkey worked tooth and nail over the past two years to secure its position among Iraqi political junctures and to push Sunnis to participate in decision-making process. Saudi Arabia funded Sunni groups and urged them to actively take part in Iraqi politics. But increasingly growing Iranian influence in Baghdad and lack of cooperation from Maliki threw Turkish and Saudi plans into disarray, further alienating Sunnis from Iraqi politics.

Along with conflicting interests in Syria, it is obvious that Iranian-Turkish rivalry over Iraq will take longer than it seems and may further worsen relations between the two countries.

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