Written by W. Karda (W_Karda@yahoo.com); editorial assistance by KB
‘The Turks have come to conquer not with tanks but with cranes.’
Wood, Graeme. Temporary Autonomous Zone. The Caravan, 10 December 2010.
And conquer they have. Turkey is back in full force after a many decades long absence from what was the Ottoman Vilayet of Mosul. On 23 January 1919, the Ottomans handed over to the British forces the last of its territory in that region. In January 2011, 92 years later, you might not recognise that they had ever left.
The Mosul Vilayet was one of the many provinces in the former Ottoman Empire. It was formed in 1879 by breaking away from the Baghdad Vilayet and included the cities of Suleimaniya, Hewlêr (Erbil), Duhok, Kirkuk and parts of Mosul.
After the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire in the aftermath of the First World War, the Vilayet fell under the rule of the victors, namely Great Britain, and became a subject of contest amongst all the other groups; Kurds, who made up the vast majority of the population of the Vilayet wanted independence. Turkey on the other hand, considered the territory theirs and did not recognise the British authority over the area. They also wanted it because Turkish leaders were afraid that Kurdish nationalism would thrive under the British Mandate and cause trouble with the Kurdish population in Turkey. Faisal ibn Husayn, who had become the king of the newly established country of Iraq, wanted the Vilayet to be a part of the country because of its natural resources, mountainous borders (which provided security), and also to balance out the Shi’a population in the south. Ultimately the British incorporated the Vilayet into Iraq, but maintained control over the oil in the region, agreeing to give a portion of the oil profits to the newly established Republic of Turkey to calm their anger over the decision. The Turks begrudgingly recognised Iraqi control over the area in a treaty signed with Britain in 1926.
Turkey, however, never entirely lost its interest in the former Vilayet of Mosul. Every now and then the Turks have reiterated that the areas which were included in the Ottoman-era Mosul Vilayet must be reclaimed, and there are those who believe that the entire Vilayet rightly belongs to Turkey.
Since the end of the Gulf War in 1991 and the establishment of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region, the Turks have been grumbling about their claim on the region, and especially the oil-rich cities of Kirkuk and Mosul, which lie just outside the ‘official’ borders of the region. To achieve such a goal, they have even militarily invaded the region dozens of times under the pretext of ‘protecting the Turkmen of Iraq’ or ‘fighting the PKK.’
The late Turgut Özal, Turkey’s former Prime Minister and then President, flirted with the idea of re-integration of this region with Turkey. He appeared to believe that a form of federation between Turkey and the Kurdistan region of Iraq would be mutually beneficial and could potentially solve Turkey’s Kurdish problems. 
In 2003, with the American-led invasion of Iraq, hopes for an independent country were renewed by the Kurds and with it, Turkish claims over the region. The Turks began threatening and intimidating the Kurds of Iraq. During those days, two cardinal issues were at the centre of many discussions between Ankara and Washington: compensation for the damage the war would cause Turkey, and more importantly, the prevention of the establishment of an independent Kurdish state. 
This prompted Turkish Parliament speaker Ömer Izgi to state that ‘Turkey will not allow a Kurdish state to be established. Turkey would be involved in Mosul, Kirkuk and Suleimaniya. We will prevent a Kurdish state from being established.’
The then parliament deputy speaker Murat Sökmenoğlu mentioned that Kirkuk is a Turkmen city. He also stated: ‘Attempts to open a second gate drove Kurdistan Democratic party (KDP) leader Mesoud Barzani crazy. Spoilt Kurds like spoilt Greeks get U.S. support and have spoilt manners.’ 
The most interesting of these comments came from the previous Minister of Foreign Affairs, Yaşar Yakış, who announced that Turkey was inspecting old treaties to ‘find out whether or not we have lost our rights to this region,’ indirectly trying to renew their claims on the long lost Vilayet of Mosul. 
Again in 2007, Turks insisted on their claim over the region by using other excuses, such as the Kirkuk issue. The Turks expressed their concerns over the fate of Kirkuk, fearing that if the Kurds annexed Kirkuk into their autonomous region they would eventually want to carve out an independent Kurdish state. As a result, the Turks launched a two-day symposium titled ‘Kirkuk 2007,’ which ended in the Turkish capital Ankara with a final declaration calling for ‘the suspension of the referendum (Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution) until the Iraqi constitution is reviewed.’ The irony was that members of all segments of society were called upon to participate in the conference (Iraqi Sunni, Shi’ite, Turkmen, Assyrians, etc) except for Kurds, who have always made up the majority of the population in Kirkuk.
On 15 January 2007, Turhan Çömez, who was a leading member of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), stated that ‘Turkey should announce that it will not recognise the results of a referendum on the future of Kirkuk under these conditions. And we should also announce that we are going to intervene if civil war erupts in Kirkuk.’
Turkey also had amassed 240,000 soldiers along the Iranian and Iraqi borders and they were awaiting orders to enter the Kurdistan region under the pretext of going after ‘Kurdistan Workers’ Party fighters’ and to ‘protect the Iraqi Turkmen population.’ 
In late 2007 and early 2008, Turkey indeed muscled its way into the Kurdistan region. The invasion by the Turkish military ‘coincided’ with a visit to the city of Kirkuk by former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, which once again highlighted the real heart of the issue. That is, it was all about the Kurds in the South and their approach for independence which made the Turks so nervous and impatient that they had to ‘warn’ the Kurds not to go too far with their endeavours.  
Ever since then, relations between the two sides have been relatively calm, with no more talk about invasions or occupations from the Turkish side. It may seem as if in the end the Turks have given up on achieving their long cherished dream of controlling what was once the Mosul Vilayet. But in fact, now Turkey is closer than ever to taking control of the area, as if they have finally learnt that in this modern era of fixed borders one cannot just force its way into other countries and try to take their land by force, especially not at a time when there are much easier and far more furtive ways to do that.
From then on, what is seen by distant observers is that the gap between Southern Kurds and Turks is narrowing, and to them this has been achieved through Turkish economic investment miracle. But the truth is hidden behind the scenes, and this is what many, if not almost all, usually miss. That is the Turks of yesterday, whose greatest achievements can be summed up by the many genocidal campaigns perpetrated against those around them, especially the century-long ethnic and cultural genocide against the Northern Kurds, which still continues to this day, are the very people that are ‘investing’ in Southern Kurdistan. It is frightening to think that the very people so well known for their extreme oppression of the Kurds and devastation of Kurdish culture there are now ‘helping’ the Kurds in the South with their economic recovery.
Turkey, through its ‘economic investment,’ or as some might call it, ‘economic invasion,’ has seemingly taken almost complete control over the Federal Kurdistan region. Wherever you go you see Turkish shopping malls, Turkish supermarkets, Turkish hotels, Turkish housing units, Turkish clothes, Turkish furniture, Turkish this and Turkish that. 
Statistics indicate that about 55 percent of the foreign firms in the Kurdistan region – 640 of 1,170 – were from Turkey, while by comparison, only 31 were German and two were French.  Some estimates put the number even higher at 700 Turkish companies, roughly accounting for two thirds of the foreign companies in the region.  Even at the four-day Erbil International Fair, which took place at late October 2010, close to 850 companies participated; with Turkish ones at the forefront of the list with 76 companies.  It is also estimated that about 15,000 Turks work in Erbil alone. In fact, one report by the Economist put the number of Turkish citizens in the Kurdistan region at around 50,000 and the number of Turkish companies at around 1,200. 
This in fact is a one-way deal in which Turks sell, Kurds buy; Turks build and Kurds pay, and has made the Kurdistan region fully reliant on the Turks. One example is the Ibrahim Khalil Border Gate in the northern Kurdish town of Zakho where 1,500 trucks pass daily, bringing Turkish building materials, clothes, furniture, food and pretty much everything else that fills the Turkish-built shops in Kurdistan.
Aydın Selcen, who heads the Turkish consulate in Erbil, put it correctly when he said ‘We are going to integrate with this country. Roads, railroads, airports, oil and gas pipelines—there will be a free flow of people and goods between the two sides of the border.’  He recently noted too that ‘[i]n all aspects, our relations will diversify, deepen and expand. So this means we are going to have an increased flow of people and goods and information between the two sides. We will see more joint ventures here; we are going to see not only increased contracting business but also more direct investment from Turkey.’ 
Some refuse to recognise the dangerous potential of what is happening. They instead write columns praising this new ‘positive dynamic between Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan’ and ask ‘[t]o whom should we give credit for this?’ 
This one-sided ‘deal with the devil’ deserves no ‘credit’, but rather careful scrutiny. In the short run it may seem as it has given a boost to the Kurdish economy, but in the long run, what can be predicted is that Turkey will use its dominance in the region and will use such influence and total control for its own objectives, with the most important to be the prevention of any sort of self-rule, liberation and freedom by the Kurds in Kurdistan region.
Part Two of ‘Reclaiming the Mosul Vilayet’ will be published on Kurdistan Commentary tomorrow, Tuesday, 25 January 2011.
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 In all aspects our relations will diversify, deepen and expand. The Kurdish Globe, 08 January 2011.
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