Iraq is one of the most chaotic countries in the region where periods of authoritarian stability did not last. Particularly over the past 35 years, the nation has constantly faced war, occupation and internal strife. It is possible to claim that administrative crises of the past century in Iraq and the broader region have generated a unique political, humanitarian and economic cost. By violently engaging post-revolutionary Iran, Iraq expanded the reach of its own crisis to include its eastern neighbor. The role of regional actors in spreading turmoil, however, was overshadowed by the West's close involvement in regional affairs and support for Saddam Hussein. Later, during the Gulf War, the U.S. intervention in Iraq had region-wide repercussions. While the embargo-driven crisis was felt across the Middle East, it was Iraq, now isolated, that had to bear the pain of internal bleeding until 2003. In the aftermath of the U.S. invasion, the country began to feel the pain of its wounds, which it rapidly exported to the region.
The 2003 invasion opened Pandora's Box and generated a template of ethnic nationalism and sectarianism. Currently, the country finds itself divided on ethnic and sectarian lines that fall just short of geographical and political disintegration. Even the ethnically charged and sectarian policies of Saddam Hussein and later, Nouri Maliki during his time as prime minister atop the destruction caused by the U.S. invasion could not facilitate the demise of Iraq. And even after half a century of bloody interventions, the country remains unable to break this vicious cycle. Meanwhile, whether or not the end of Maliki's rule will turn over a new leaf remains the main question today.
At this point, Turkey's take on the country's affairs will have a great influence on the future of Iraq. Since the 2003 invasion, Turkey's position, certain problems about its capacity notwithstanding, - followed a certain pattern. While Turkish authorities refused to participate in the occupation, disagreeing with the global wave, they took responsibility for Iraq's future by organizing the Meeting of the Neighbors of Iraq, facilitating the 2005 elections and helped generate a moderate political climate after the 2010 elections that temporarily fell prey to Maliki's policies. Unfortunately, Western governments and regional actors did not appreciate Turkey's efforts adequately until the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).
Coming to terms with Iraq's sad realities through ISIS's attacks, of course, requires the most difficult kind of political operations. At this point, the prevailing, and partially effective, attitude entails the political empowerment of all actors in an attempt to stop the bleeding. In the longer term, this effort will lead to no more than the creation of a new vicious cycle. Considering that the guardianship of Iraq remains intact, it will take a much more active and constructive political agenda to generate stability in the country.
Today, all political actors inside Iraq seek to exaggerate the ISIS threat, which conveniently serves to distract attention from the sectarian policies of Western and regional players in order to avoid a confrontation with the present crisis. I must add that at this point Turkey could make a unique contribution. As a matter of fact, there does not seem to be a more realistic and practical solution to the ongoing crisis than the Iraqiyya solution that Turkey formulated in 2010. It would appear that the country will soon replace Germany as Turkey's largest export market. With the exception of Turkish Cyprus, Iraq will become the most important military hub in the region. Developments in energy integration will follow. Joint cabinet meetings between Turkey and Iraq, which stopped in 2011, will start again. In the face of this promising effort, there is ethnic and sectarian disintegration. One thing is clear - there is no comfortable road map in Iraq, but an acceptable one could emerge if we seek a way out of the current situation through mutual necessity.