By HAWAR ABDUL-RAZAQ
ERBIL, Iraqi Kurdistan: As the US has reduced its presence here in Iraq, political experts warn the Kurds to strengthen their ties with neighboring countries and remain less reliant on the US.
The Kurds have long considered the US their closest ally and friend. This alliance was augmented by the 2003-Iraq War after the Kurds became an unreserved US ally after Turkey refused to cooperate with the Americans to invade Iraq.
But now some political observers believe that it is better for Kurds build up its political and economic relations with Turkey to avoid any possible threat posed by Iran and the Arab Iraq.
"The Kurds have some reason to be nervous about US departure,” said Kenneth Katzman, specialist in Middle East affairs for the Congressional Research Service where he provides analysis on Iraq and Middle East to the members of Congress and their staffs.
“The US departure will mean that the KRG loses a valuable ally that is guaranteeing the autonomy of the KRG," added Katzman. “Because both Shiite and Sunni Arabs do not want Kurds having autonomy or control over their own oil resources.”
The US departure will mean that the KRG loses a valuable ally that is guaranteeing the autonomy of the KRG," said Katzman.
Qubad Talabani, representative of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to Washington in an interview earlier in the mid of last month told Rudaw that the Kurds are no longer the 2003 unreserved ally of the US.
“I would like to say that we are not in 2003 now,” said Talabani, son of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. “We won’t say ‘OK’ for whatever US says.”
However, Katzman does not believe that the Iraqi government will be in a position to crash on the Kurds, as far the Arab parties remain weak and divided in the south and center of Iraq.
“The national government armed forces will not be strong enough at any time in the foreseeable future to invade northern Iraq, as Saddam did, and oust the KRG,” said Katzman.
“The KRG is enshrined in the TAL and the national Constitution and invading northern Iraq would be against the established constitution".
Daniel P. Serwer supervisor of the United States Institute of Peace's (USIP) efforts in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Balkans, Haiti and Sudan, says that there are reasons to be optimistic and pessimistic about the future of the Kurds following the full withdrawal of US forces by the end of happen next year.
"There are of course risks from all those directions, but there are also opportunities,” said Serwer.
“Relations between Kurdistan and Turkey have improved markedly. There is no reason why they should not continue to improve, especially if Kurdistan is able to limit the threat to Turkey from the PKK members who hide out in Iraqi Kurdistan,” he added.
On the other hand, Serwer says “Tehran is the most problematic: the Iranians fear instability arising from Kurds inside Iran and at the same time they have promoted instability inside Iraq".
Just like almost any other political analyst, David L. Phillips, Senior Fellow and Deputy Director of the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations, is supportive of the enhancement of the Turkey-KRG ties.
The US also prefers Turkey to play a central role Iraq rather than Iran as it is leaving the country for the vulnerable Iraqis.
"The KRG has been prudent by developing close diplomatic and commercial ties with Turkey. Ankara is an important strategic partner and acts as a counter-weight to Baghdad. The KRG should continue to strengthen those ties while maintaining constructive relations with others," said Phillips.