In the latest Presidential election the U.S. has chosen to withdraw from Iraq. There will be an inevitable vacuum in the region. Many expect Turkey and Iran to become dominate in the region. Clearly, in a region that has depended on the U.S. to define the balance of powers for so many years, this is a possibility. Turkey has been pumped up over the years with U.S. military aid and supplies and looks to aggressively define its role. Syria as a Ba'athist power would be most likely to align with the militaristic Turkish regime.
Iran has social forces in the region but no real military power. Iran's effort to acquire a nuclear weapon is clearly an attempt to address this. Iranian influence is based on its programs for dispossessed populations and military supplies to its sponsored militias. Iran's performance in the Iran-Iraq war demonstrated that its military capabilities are limited. Iran may be able to influence the political landscape of Lebanon and Gaza, but it is unable to consolidate these gains territorially or economically.At issue is land power versus military power. Russia presents itself in this context as the dominating Asian power in the region. Economically, Turkey is dependent on Russia and depends on Russia for 29 percent of its oil and 63 percent of its natural gas. Turkey's bubble as a regional power is dependent on its alliance with the United States. Otherwise, it pops and becomes just one of several powers trying to reconfigure the region to its advantage. Turkey's secular status is based on its military rule and is decreasing as the Turkish military accommodates the Islamism of Justice and Development (AK).
Russia has obviously faced a contentious Turkey in agricultural trade disputes, energy issues and in Turkey's supplying Georgia with military equipment. Last year Russia opened a consulate within the Kurdish Autonomous Region. The statement by Nechirvan Barzani, Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government declared: "We in the Kurdistan Region believe in friendship and good relations with the international community, and have been trying hard to achieve this, especially with countries like Russia with whom we share a common history."
Russia's economic and political role in the region is growing. Its recognition of the KRG and its work with the KRG on economic and political issues are significant. Moving forward means learning to address old problems with new solutions. Turkey remains a threat poised on the border of the Kurdistan Autonomous Region. Russia is a power that has recognized the Kurdish nation. IntelliBriefs website reports: "Russia has made significant strategic forays in the Middle East especially in countries which were known to be strong military allies of the United States. Today it has both a political and strategic foothold in the Middle East." Russia has not been oblivious to Turkish actions on the border of northern Iraq in its plans against the Kurdish peoples and nation. In 2007, Leonid Ivashov, president of the Academy of Geopolitical Sciences in Moscow, elaborated that such an invasion would create a "hotspot" for Russia close to its borders. He predicted that such a Turkish invasion would create "instability, risks and challenges that would be very hard to deal with." The Russian parliament passed an appeal in 2007 to the Turkish government calling on it to show "wisdom and restraint," and warning about possible negative consequences of a cross-border military campaign.In the meantime, in October the Turkish Parliament passed 511-18 an extension authorizing Turkish troops to invade Iraq. As indicated in my article "Turkish Troops Enforce Baghdad's Violation of the Kirkuk Referendum" such an action is simply a means of enforcing what Baghdad is not capable of enforcing itself, the refusal to implement Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution. It is clear that Russia is a more significant power in the region and has a much longer historical role in the region than the United States. As the United States relinquishes its influence in the region there will be new decisions to be made. One thing is assured: Turkish antipathy towards the Kurdish nation and peoples has shown no indications of changing.