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Turkey is a Real Country Now, and Gets It (Pt. 4)

October 16, 2010

What began as just a quick little riff on the China-Turkey talks has now taken in far more. We are going to have one more piece to this before we conclude with a sort of “What does it all mean?” which I’m sure you just can’t wait for.

Ahhh, the Kurdistans. It wasn’t that long ago when I was bounding along in a rented Fiat we named the Mullah Mustafa, scoping out the Southeast of Turkey. Just two dudes goofing off and talking about things that sounded like they could never happen, like Turkey supporting an independent Northern Iraq that was called Kurdistan.

Though our car was a bit more streamlined.

Now, Turkey is the number one investor in Kurdistan. The Atlantic Council produced a pretty good report on why without getting too Gee Whiz about the whole thing.

Anyone can tell you that Iraq could use as much not-American/British development into not-dudes-with-guns as it could use. And since the Kurdish region is awfully peaceful, it could do more with the development then most.

And hey, who’s the closest, chillest, neighbor to Iraq? Turkey, of course. And it’s obviously in Turkey’s best interest to have a close, chill, Iraq. So it makes sense.

What blows my mind is that it works. Dawn, an otherwise sober Pakistan-based place, has a glowing review of Arbil, complete with everyone’s favorite crutch: architect’s plans. The article itself is a bit more nuanced than the headline, of course, but it does have this take-away:

The Kurds are reaching out to European and American investors but at present 55 percent of the foreign companies investing there – 640 of 1,170 – are from neighbouring Turkey.

So that’s something.

And one of the innumerous “Kurdish Home on the Net” sort of places stumbled upon our good friend Justin Vela‘s piece on Turkish business in Kurdistan. I can’t find the original version of that article, so I’ll just link it to here.

Take a drive through the Kurdish city of Sulaimaniyah in Kurdistan region in Iraq’s north and it’s easily to pick out buildings and shops with Turkish names like Istikbal, Istanbul Bazaar, Dogan and the Ozboy furniture shop. On the main street, two new overpasses were built by Turkish companies, as were the city’s international airport and also dormitories at the local university.

That said, “For oil exploration, Kurdistan is virtually unexplored” is completely untrue. The real question is how to get the oil OUT. Right now it’s mostly smuggled out to Iran or to Turkey. This is a whole other and very fascinating bit I would love to get into. But once everyone trusts each other enough to build a pipeline? That’s when the money starts really coming in.

So yeah, with as many things in Iraq – and even Kurdistan, that do not work, it’s interesting to see that this Turkish project most certainly does. Kurdistan is hardly perfect, of course. Kirkuk is still an unsorted mess that runs the possibility of getting violent, a possibility made greater by the fact that there haven’t been too many job openings for all of these Peshmerga still active (a lot of the construction in Turkish projects is actually done by Turks: There’s unemployment issues in Turkey as well, of course).

John Dolan’s piece about working at the American University in Sulaymaniya is a must, must, read. I’m sure there are people who would disagree with his statements, and I strongly urge said people to come out…but yeah. It doesn’t paint a particularly good picture of the US non-occupation of the North.

But things are at least progressing in Kurdistan. In large thanks to Turkish companies. In fact, one could reason that the whole Turkish-Kurdish issue can largely be solved through this sort of cooperation, more so than a lot of the Kandil-centered talks. Again, this is a whole other story.

But compared to the bold-faced imperialism we’ve discussed elsewhere, there is actually something to Turkish companies in Arbil. What does it all mean, though? Well, that’s for our conclusion piece later this weekend.

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