The entire Middle East is on fire again. The assassination of Qassem Soleimani, Iran's revenge with a dozen missiles at U.S. military bases in Iraq and U.S. President Donald Trump's Wednesday speech have all created tension in the region this week.
What is happening? Are we on the brink of a new global war?
President Trump said the missile attacks did not harm any U.S. or Iraqi troops and that the damage was minimal, whereas Tehran claims to have killed 80 American soldiers.
Actually, this was the most positive outcome that could have come out of U.S. aggression. Iran says that it responded proportionately, and the U.S. says Iran's attack caused minimal damage.
Following the attacks, many governments are calling for a return to diplomacy. Nobody wants a new war. We have witnessed the disaster in Syria over the past nine years, and we have seen what happened since the Iraq War. The Middle East has become worse since 2003.
So in this crisis, the overall reaction is for peace. In this regard, Turkey plays an important role in the region, calling for stability and peaceful resolutions.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has warned against escalating tension and said Ankara will use every means available to avoid a new conflict.
Turkey wants to use diplomatic channels to ease tensions. For this aim, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu went to Iraq to further contact Thursday.
Fortunately, the atmosphere has started to calm down. Iraqi Shiite Cleric Moqtada al-Sadr made a statement to decrease the tension as well. He is one of the most influential figures in the Shiite community and said the crisis that Iraq is experiencing is already in decline since both Iran and the U.S. are maintaining calm tones. Sadr called on militia groups not to carry out attacks.
The U.S. said it will participate in dialogue with NATO without preconditions to discuss Iran.
So we can say that the crisis is under control. Yet, Soleimani is dead – the most influential figure in shaping pro-Shiite policies in the region – and Iraq has become like a backyard for Iran.
Will his death change this picture?
It is difficult to say that everything will be the same after Soleimani. It is clear that Iran's policies will not change and that it will continue to seek power in Iraq, backing the Assad regime, but in the future, U.S. policies will change.
Soleimani's death provided a return ticket for the U.S. to go into Iraq. Former U.S. President Barack Obama's decision to distance the U.S. from the country has been reversed. We will see a much more visible American presence and control over Iraq in the following weeks.
This could lead to new tension and terror attacks in the country. Iraq is already shaken by protests and unrest and the return of American power will radicalize the Shiite bloc even more.
The Kurds will feel safer and the Sunnis, although they will not express their feelings, will feel relieved. But Iran will not give up its control over Iraqi politics.
In this new dynamic, Turkey is for Iraq's territorial integrity and stability in the country. It is the only actor that has ties with both Iran and the U.S., and I think that it will play a major role of a facilitator in the coming difficult times in Iraq.