President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım have spoken very bluntly and extremely realistically following the independence referendum held by the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). They clearly declared that the referendum will not be tolerated by Ankara and it is not accepted as a political ploy by Masoud Barzani to force the Iraqi central government in Baghdad to bow to his demands.
From now on Turkey will not regard the Barzani administration as a counterpart in any way and will deal with the Baghdad government. This is a very heavy blow to Barzani who simply did not understand the value and importance of Turkey's friendship and the assistance it has provided to keep his administration going despite its clear mismanagement of the region.Ankara has extended $2 billion to Barzani as a loan to pay his civil servants; it has allowed the Kurds to export their oil through Turkey and it has tolerated the irresponsible attitude of the Barzani administration not to pay Turkish contractors the $1.5 billion dollars which it has owed for years now.
Barzani should understand that falling into odds with President Erdoğan is very different than being on bad terms with any other country or leader. Erdoğan gives and gives, but when they fool around with him he simply does not forgive.
For months President Erdoğan and the Turkish leaders have gone out of their way to warn Barzani that the so-called referendum itself is unacceptabl. Barzani is trying to create justification for his actions saying that he will not declare independence immediately and will be open to negotiations with Baghdad.
What he does not understand is that Turkey, Iran and the Baghdad administration regards the so-called referendum null and void and will not tolerate Barzani and his administration acting according to their whims. On the contrary with this referendum and the defiance of the constitution of Iraq, the KRG has lost its legitimacy. That is exactly what President Erdoğan and Iran are saying. That is why from now on Ankara will deal with Baghdad and not Irbil.
The fact that Barzani has pushed Kirkuk into this terrible adventure is even more dangerous. He is openly creating the conditions of civil war in the Kirkuk province and its environs. According to Iraqi law Kirkuk, which houses Turkmens and is thus vital for Turkish interests, is a part of Iraq and is within the jurisdiction of Baghdad and not a part of the KRG. This kind of fait accompli by Barzani will only deepen the massive crisis that is approaching us with lightning speed.
Turkey has said it very clearly that it will not tolerate a Kurdish state at its doorstep neither in Iraq nor in Syria. It also does not accept the presence and gradual dominance of the PKK in the area. If this happens or if the Turkmens of Kirkuk are threatened, Turkey will not remain idle, that is what Foreign Minister Mevlut Çavuşoğlu declared on Monday.
Iran has closed its airspace to the Kurds of Iraq; it has closed its borders with the KRG territory and is taking very tough measures. Turkey on its part is now putting into force various measures against the so-called referendum. President Erdoğan has said the borders with the KRG will be closed down and oil flow from the region will be terminated.
Barzani has unfortunately created his own nightmare and he will soon realize that the hard way. What is sad is that he is dragging the Kurds of Iraq into this nightmare. It is a pity that a statesman like Jalal Talabani was not around to restrain him and prevent this mess.