The Current Trajectories of Turkish-Iraqi Relations: New Prospects in Confronting Old Obstacles

The relations between Türkiye and Iraq have always been of imperative importance to both countries, neither of which can afford to neglect or insufficiently care about it. For Türkiye, there are three main motivations for paying attention to and interacting with developments in Iraq. Firstly, there are  historical and geographical considerations. Turks and Iraqis have lived together within the framework of one state for nearly a thousand years (the Seljuk Empire, the Ottoman Empire), and they are now neighboring countries with 378 kilometers of shared borders. This heritage is supposed to lay the groundwork for distinguished cooperative paths in their relations. The second motivation is the merit of power, Türkiye is currently a regional power in addition to being an industrial, commercial, and agricultural country. It constantly seeks opportunities for partnership and economic cooperation with regional states within a win-win framework. Iraq is a rich country but needs everything; all sectors of the Iraqi economy and its current infrastructure require rebuilding and reconstruction, and Türkiye finds itself qualified to participate effectively in these roles. The third motivation is the protection of Turkish national security and interests and the fight against terrorism. The Iraqi arena witnesses the presence of armed organizations that target the security and stability of Türkiye in general, and Turkish interests in Iraq in particular. Foremost among these terrorist organizations is the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which is listed as a terrorist organization by Türkiye, the US, the EU, and several other international entities.

As for Iraq, among all its relations with neighboring countries and the region, its relations with Türkiye represent a fateful priority, with narrow space for political maneuvers and disputes. This is because 70% of the water flowing into Iraq originates from Turkish territory, and water is the lifeblood of any country. On the other hand, Türkiye is Iraq's gateway to Europe, both in terms of the strategic perspectives of transporting and exporting Iraqi oil and considering the unique geographical positions of both countries in global trade routes, as they together form the connecting bridge between Asia and Europe.

The Turkish political approach towards Iraq during the post-2003 years, with its challenging circumstances and crises and the successes it achieved at certain stages, represents the optimal period for studying Iraq's position in contemporary Turkish politics. This period truly embodies the most important opportunities and the most dangerous challenges and provides a suitable panorama for envisioning the prospects of  relations between the two countries.

We can say that the Iraqi-Turkish Development Road Project is an important indicator of the promising new horizons for strategic cooperation between the two countries. In the same context, we can identify the main current obstacles to the development of Iraqi-Turkish relations in three principal issues: the deployment of the PKK in northern Iraq; the issue of water sharing between the two countries; and the issue of exporting oil from the Iraqi Kurdistan Region through Turkish territory and ports without formatting this with the central Iraqi government.