By Hamid Mourad Iraqi Human Rights Society
Regional countries neighboring Iraq, especially Iran and Turkey, continue interfering in internal affairs through transgressions, infiltration and violations of the sovereignty of Iraqi territory. Whether by air, land or sea, all are flagrant violations of the United Nations Charter and international laws, values and norms and a threat to the security of the whole region.
Under the pretext of chasing opposition parties in the border areas, the abuses have been going on for more than two decades now, and these countries have not stopped or changed their aggressive behavior towards the sovereign country of Iraq. The Iraqi state joined the League of Nations in 1932, and was among the founding members of the United Nations in 1945, and maintains good international relations. Throughout its history, Iraqi diplomacy presented many important and honorable contributions in support of the peoples of the world for freedom and independence, and it respected peoples’ choices in determining and deciding on their own fate and live in dignity. Iraq has actively participated in establishing friendly international relations between sovereign states.
It happened for the first time in the history of the Iraqi state that past Iraq regimes led the country into two lost wars, the first and second Gulf War. This gave the world the impression that Iraq did not respect international sovereignty and legitimacy. But this was not the Iraqi’s people’s choice. And the wars led the country to lose, martyr or disable its finest youth. Furthermore, the wars destroyed the most basic foundations of the country’s infrastructure, shattered the economy, and made Iraq a debtor country after it had enjoyed 40 billion dollars in budget surplus in 1979.
The frequent violations and aggression by Turkish and Iranian forces of Iraqi sovereignty have become a major source of concern for the residents of those villages and towns in Iraq’s remote areas (the Qandil mountain range, Kara, Sinjar, and the districts and towns of Zakho, Amadiya, Zab, Haji Omran, Suran, Sidekan, Bashdar, Markah Sur, and Makhmour). These areas are constant targets of Turkish and Iranian aircraft and artillery, which has forced the local civilians to flee. These actions of aggression have sowed terror and fear, caused killing and injury of many innocent civilians, and caused material damage to vast agricultural lands, pastures and other personal possessions.
The Iranian and Turkish governments claim that the reason for their violations of Iraqi sovereignty is the result of the presence of armed opposition forces launching military operations against their countries from inside Iraqi territories, i.e. from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Iranian political opposition groups and forces who demand national, political and cultural rights. The two countries say they have been demanding for some time now that the Iraqi authorities expel and hand over these forces. Otherwise, military operations inside Iraqi territory will continue to pursue those forces.
It is clear that Iraq cannot end this complicated situation through military effort or carry out any armed operations. Here, Iraq is stuck in an unenviable position. It cannot surrender or prevent these groups which are present in its border areas because extraditing them will collide with international conventions and has associated humanitarian and moral dimensions. Despite that the Kurdistan Regional authorities have demanded, on more than one occasion, from these armed forces and their leaders to stop carrying out military operations against the two neighboring countries from inside Iraqi territories, the situation has remained as is.
What should Iraq do? Iraq should put in place a mechanism to solve this crisis through negotiations with the Iranian and Turkish governments and find a responsible settlement that satisfies all parties; one that includes the importance of putting forth and emphasizing the neutral viewpoint of Iraq in case; gives insight in the great damage Iraq is exposed to in the political, economic and financial areas if the conflict continues like this; the impact on development projects; and takes into account the demographic change that happen in these regions.
The settlement also contains ideological and ideological calculations. And external interference will try to sabotage the reconciliation process or a solution to end the conflicts in the border area. And if Iraq does not obtain satisfactory guarantees and results, then it must search for a new strategy and path of diplomacy in order to preserve the sovereignty of its lands and protect its patient people. Iraq must turn to the United Nations, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the Arab League, and the International Court of Justice, the latter is specialized in inter-state disputes and the primary and judicial arm of the United Nations in conflicts of abuse, border tensions or disputes between countries.
The incursion of Turkish and Iranian forces and the bombing of their warplanes in Iraqi territories, conducted whenever they wish so, are violations of the sanctity and sovereignty of Iraqi territory and airspace. They go against principles of good neighborliness and mutual respect, and harm the interests of Iraq, as well as being a challenge to the government and the political, social and civil forces within the Iraqi state. The incursion and military actions destabilize Iraq’s internal security and cause widespread instability in the border cities with Turkey and Iran.
The new diplomatic path should make clear to everyone that the Iraqi government and people reject any aggression and do not allow the Iraqi arena to be an arena for settling accounts between these parties. And that Iraq strives to enhance understanding and cooperation to align and secure a wide range of interests between the two neighboring countries in accordance with the UN Charter. That Iraq strives to contribute to peace and stability and the development of good foreign relations. And that Iraq’s priorities are preserving its sovereignty and to balance the shared interests with all regional and international parties.
Hamid Mourad is secretary of the Iraqi Human Rights Society
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