The Turkish government continued its deft handling of the sticky security situation on its Iraq border, following up its military strikes against PKK guerillas with its first diplomatic contacts with the Kurdistan Regional Government. The move comes in the wake of increasing signals from KRG President Massoud Barzani that the Iraqi Kurdish leadership values smooth relations with Ankara more than its ethnic solidarity with the PKK. On the Turkish side, the move signals a shift in its Iraq policy from a focus on divisive ethnically-based questions such as the status of Kirkuk to the development of regional economic and social ties based on mutual advantage.
That makes for one component of the worst-case scenarios in Iraq that has been successfully walked back from the brink. And the American role here, both in satisfying Turkey’s security concerns and in pressuring Iraqi Kurds to marginalize the PKK, seems central, even if belated. So this is good news all around, and a testament to what can be achieved when good sense and skillful diplomacy coincide.