Voices from the Arab Press: Iraq and the Friendship Treaty with Turkey

A weekly selection of opinions and analyses from the Arab media around the world.

VOLUNTEERS FROM Hezbollah’s Islamic health unit prepare to sanitize Beirut’s streets on March 31 (photo credit: AZIZ TAHER/REUTERS)
VOLUNTEERS FROM Hezbollah’s Islamic health unit prepare to sanitize Beirut’s streets on March 31
(photo credit: AZIZ TAHER/REUTERS)
Al-Mada, Iraq, June 25
Iraq and Turkey are bound by an agreement known as the Treaty of Friendship and Good Neighborly Relations between Iraq and Turkey, which contains six main clauses referring to a handful of topics, including the regulation of the Tigris and Euphrates waters and the issue of mutual cooperation. The treaty also provides the basis for bilateral educational and cultural cooperation, as well as economic partnerships. The Iraqi parliament ratified this treaty in 1947.
I won’t dive into each and every clause in this agreement, but a few points are worth pointing out. First, the treaty contains binding language that forces the two sides to fully respect each other’s borders and sovereignty. Second, the treaty states that in the event of a territorial dispute between Turkey and Iraq, the two sides will resolve this dispute in a peaceful manner, through negotiations, investigation, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, or judicial settlement. Simply put, this means avoiding military action at any cost, especially before exhausting all peaceful mediation mechanisms.
Therefore, Turkey’s recent cross-border incursions into northern Iraq raise serious questions and concerns about the implementation of this treaty. Did the Iraqi parliament get word of these actions before they were carried out and approve them? Or did the Turkish side violate the treaty and acted without knowledge of Iraqi officials? Unfortunately, we’re left with many questions and few answers. This is because our political system lacks transparency and accountability.
There is simply no way of knowing what the Iraqi stance vis-à-vis Turkey really is. It certainly seems as if Baghdad is maintaining a weak and forgiving foreign policy toward Ankara. In the absence of credible briefings and information provided to the Iraqi public by its elected officials, we in the media will continue to investigate the hidden decisions made on behalf of all of us behind closed doors.
– Hadi Aziz Ali
Asharq Al-Awsat, London, June 26
Even those who do not agree with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi recognize his ability to control his temper and his patience.
Three years ago, the Libyan war represented a huge challenge for Egypt, with armed groups infiltrating the border between the two countries on a regular basis. However, Cairo chose to tackle it by tightening border guards and chasing infiltrators within its own territory. Also, for years, patience has been directed at incitement stemming from Istanbul, Doha and London, carried out by the Egyptian opposition based in these locations, trying to mobilize the Egyptian street and calling for violence and confrontation. However, Cairo ignored them.
Sisi saved Egypt from the Muslim Brotherhood. However, I now fear that the Egyptians are in for another round against the Brotherhood, based on recent remarks made by the former emir of Qatar, who claimed that while the Brotherhood failed to take over Egypt in the first round, there are “still more rounds left in the future.”
In Libya, the adjacent country, we notice that the goals of war are changing. The fighting there is no longer over who will lead the government, but rather over the establishment of a new regional base for the Brotherhood, where it can incubate and grow. Given the growing Turkish military presence in the country, it seems inevitable that Libya will become the new home for the Egyptian opposition. That is why Ankara intervened directly not to lift the siege on the capital, Tripoli, but went to Sirte, the oil areas, and the Egyptian borders.
The Egyptian opposition is currently living in Istanbul. It failed to penetrate Egypt and move the street against Sisi and will relocate to Libya. Turks see in Libya oil and geography. It is a country that, when tightly controlled, is able to support the activities of Turkey, which can use it for its own geopolitical ambitions. Among other things, Libya offers Turkey a land crossing into Egypt and Sudan, in which it seeks to develop deep extensions.    
– Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed
Al Jazeera, Saudi Arabia, June 27
A lot of attention has been given by media outlets to the cutting-edge efforts to find and develop a vaccination for the COVID-19 virus. However, little has been said about the fact that, regardless of a vaccine, the pandemic will likely continue to ebb and flow in years to come unless we correct our relationship with nature, which has been continuously degraded by human activity.
Poverty, the overcrowding of cities, the growing gap between the world’s poor and rich, inadequate healthcare, and the growing intensity of human movement around the world have all contributed to the depletion of our environment. These are the factors that eventually turned a local epidemic into a global pandemic that threatens millions of people. In essence, the poverty prevailing among 10% of our planet’s population is one of the key reasons for the spread of epidemics.
Indeed, a study of major pandemics throughout history shows that man has always been the primary culprit in their spread. Viruses and bacteria are only secondary actors in the story; it is irresponsible human activity that leads to major crises.
For example, the Antonine plague was brought to the Roman Empire by troops who were returning from campaigns in the Near East. Similarly, the plague of Amwas, the Black Death in the 14th century CE, and the Spanish Flu of 1918 were all caused by the return of soldiers from distant battlefields, where they lacked clean water and had inadequate sanitary conditions.
Today, viruses spread less due to war and more due to the rapid rise in globalization. Therefore, until we change our behavior and become more conscious of our impact on our planet, viruses discovered in distant corners of the world will continue to spread among us, turning into public health crises like the one we’re experiencing today.
– Jasser Al-Harbash
Nida Al-Watan, Lebanon, June 27
What the Lebanese authorities are doing is nothing but an exercise in futility: reinventing the wheel instead of working to quickly resolve the crisis we’re in. Lawmakers are busy with redesigning the Lebanese political system from scratch, as if our constitution, institutions and protocols that were set forth since the Taif Agreement are nothing but an ancient relic of the past. Unfortunately, our politicians aren’t pressed to solve our country’s crises because those only fuel and empower them. Similarly, no single entity is able to lead the country, because Lebanon has played two contradicting roles: one as a member of the “Axis of Resistance” led by Iran, and another as a diplomatic player ready to negotiate with America, Russia, Turkey and Israel.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently called on the Lebanese government to make “real reforms and work in a manner that does not make it hostage to Hezbollah” as a precondition to any foreign aid from the United States. However, the truth is that there is no Lebanese government without Hezbollah and there is no Hezbollah without the Lebanese government; both have become a single entity over the years. One hand of the Lebanese political establishment is devoid of a real military apparatus, tangible economic power, or well-defined foreign relations. It is simply subjected to the whims of Hezbollah and, through that, to the Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist, which has taken an increasingly active role in the region – from the Syrian civil war, through the Yemeni crisis, to the conflict with Israel.
The other hand simply seeks to protect the failed government at any price while mitigating crises with Lebanon’s allies.
– Rafik Khoury
Translated by Asaf Zilberfarb.