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memri
August 1, 2008 No.
2008

Iraq and Turkey: Regional Cooperation That Should Change the Region

Basra-Istanbul Railway, Highway Will Link East and West, Bringing Prosperity to Both

On June 16, 2008, the website www.tolerancy.org posted an editorial by Dr. Hussain Sinjari, former minister in the regional government of Kurdistan, owner and publisher of the liberal Iraqi paper Al-Ahali, and president of Tolerancy International, an Iraqi NGO that promotes tolerance among Arab ethnic and religious groups. In his editorial, Dr. Sinjari focused on Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's recent visit to Iraq and on Turkish-Iraqi rapprochement, and proposed that a modern railway and highway be built to link Basra and Istanbul.

The following are excerpts:

"Due to the Long Decades of Dictatorship... Our Country [Iraq] is Almost a Wasteland... In Order to Change It, We Need This Kind of Strategic Regional Cooperation"

"The last visit by a Turkish prime minister to our country was in 1990. Now, 18 years later, a different Turkish prime minister has come to Baghdad... An historic moment came when the two sides founded the Higher Strategic Cooperation Council, co-chaired by both prime ministers, which is planned to convene three times a year, and will deal with vital issues of energy, military industry, security and politics.

"This historic visit was the fruit of efforts by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki. It came after the obvious success of the latest military/security operations in various locations in Iraq – including Basra, Baghdad, Ramadi, Mosul and other places where criminal gangs used to terrorize the population.

"Erdogan's visit would not have been possible without this security success. The writer of this article has witnessed the improvement in his walks through Baghdad, by day and by night. I was recently surprised to see hundreds of families relaxing in Abu Nawas, a famous avenue of cafés and restaurants on the bank of the Tigris River, widely known for its mesgouf grilled fish. Security in the area is maintained by a private security company, the Sandi Group, which patrols the bars and restaurants, checks cars, guards against terrorists, and preserves order.

"Semi-European Turkey – with its democratically elected parliament, free and critical media, active civil society organizations, and with the progress it has made in the fields of agriculture, industry, education and tourism – will form a unique regional partnership with Iraq, which has the largest oil reserves in the world and the best human resources in the Middle East. Due to the long decades of dictatorship – during which our national wealth was wasted on armaments, the liberation of Palestine, propaganda lies and other destructive practices – our country is almost a wasteland. This sad reality must be changed, and in order to change it we need this kind of strategic regional cooperation, which will enable us to rebuild and reconstruct."

"The Kurdish People Live Along the Iraqi-Turkish Border, And Can Be of Great Help as a Bridge Between the Two Countries"

"The Kurdish people live along the Iraqi-Turkish border, and can be of great help as a bridge between the two countries. The armed insurgency must stop, and people must demand their rights and expressed their grievances in acceptable civil ways. The state is not innocent either – its policies must be revised, so that the people are listened to and cared for.

"The Turkmen in Iraq and the Arabs in Turkey are examples of diversity which could and should be a source of strength and wealth.

"While Iraq suffers great pain because its eastern neighbor, Iran, has decided to follow Saddam's path of nihilism, our northern neighbor, Turkey, extends a hopeful hand of friendship, trust and a promise of prosperity."

"Give Top Priority to Building a Modern Railway Between Basra and Istanbul, As Well As a Modern Highway Connecting the Two Cities"

"Here I make a proposal to the governments of Iraq and Turkey: Give top priority to building a modern railway between Basra and Istanbul, as well as a modern highway connecting the two cities. These two large-scale projects will attract investments from large companies, and small businesses will flourish along the railway and highway.

"This new artery will link Iraq to Europe via Istanbul, and Turkey to the Gulf region via Basra, and it takes no more than a glance to realize what wealth this could bring – not only to the people of Turkey and Iraq, but to Europe and the Gulf as well!

"In our globalized world we need more 'tolerance diplomacy.' This new approach means finding common ground and mutual interests regardless of differences in faith, ideology, ethnicity and language. Iraq, Turkey and other countries should explore the benefits of mutual acceptance and recognition of each other's rights. Operating along these lines, the Higher Strategic Cooperation Council will serve as an example for many others who are crippled by evil ideology."