BY ZEYNEP GURCANLI
It did not attract much attention between the election and the earthquake agenda, but Ankara hosted an important foreign visitor at the beginning of the last week. Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani paid his first official visit to Turkey.
The two agenda items came to the fore during his visit, as expected: security and economy.
On the security side, the Iraqi Prime Minister’s vow to stop the terrorist organization PKK’s attacks on Turkey over Northern Iraq particularly drew attention. Iraq, which doesn’t officially recognize the PKK as a terrorist organization, has made such promises for years. However, 18 cross-border operations, which have been performed by Turkey towards Iraq since 1984, are the most concrete indication that Iraqi politicians haven’t kept their promises in this direction. The Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) has started to follow a different method in the region with the Claw Operations since 2019. The method to take measures against terrorism with temporary bases established in Northern Iraq has been followed now instead of performing the operation and returning to the country. The visit of the Iraqi Prime Minister to Ankara is important as it is a sign that the Baghdad government won’t utter about these operations of the TSK, at least under existing conditions.
DRY CANAL ON THE AGENDA AGAIN AS THE DEVELOPMENT ROAD PROJECT
The economic side of Al-Sudani’s visit, on the other hand, was marked by the ‘Development Road project’, which was renamed by Erdogan. Although the name is new, the history of the project is quite old. It was first launched as a ‘dry canal project’ in 2010. The project involved the connection of the very large capacity Faw Port, which Iraq plans to build in the Persian Gulf, to Europe via Turkey and Syria by railways and highways.
The showy groundbreaking ceremonies of the port were held in Al-Faw in 2010. The cost of the port project hovered around USD 5bn, and its completion period was determined as four to five years. The goal of the project was to create an alternative to the Suez Canal for the goods to be sent from Asia to Europe through the Port of Faw and reduce the transportation time by around 15 days.
Moreover, a 16-kilometer breakwater, which became the world’s largest breakwater, was built by a Greek company within the scope of the port project. But then, internal political turmoil and a sizable corruption stepped in, and the project stopped in Iraq. The corruption issue has grown so much that there was even death within the scope of the project. The representative of the Korean company Daewoo, which has been contracted to build rockfills for the project, was found dead in his office. It was stated that he committed suicide due to the corruption pressure against him, and it was said that he was killed by people who were trying to make money from the project. The issue has remained one of the unsolved deaths in the political history of Iraq.
However, the death of the Korean representative also paved the way for the Faw Port to be brought to the agenda of Iraq again. Daewoo signed a USD 2.62bn port construction contract with the Iraqi government. The new contract includes making the port of Faw one of the largest ports in the region both for container capacity and oil export and storage.
Of course, the connection of this port to Europe by highways and railways comes up next after the tender was held for the port. The project, which was previously called ‘Dry Canal’ and came to the agenda during Iraqi Prime Minister Al-Sudani’s visit and was mentioned as the ‘Development Road Project’ by Erdogan, includes this link to Europe. The original plan envisaged connecting the Faw Port with the Turkish and Syrian ports in the Mediterranean. However, the Syrian leg of the project has been suspended for now due to the war in this country.
ERDOGAN’S TURKISH CONTRACTOR BARGAIN
It’s also not a coincidence that the Iraqi Prime Minister brought up the water issue during the Erdogan-Al-Sudani meeting where Turkish companies were discussed to be involved in the construction of both the Faw Port and the Development Road.
It won’t be wrong to read Erdogan’s promise to partially open the dams on the Euphrates and Tigris for a month and pour water into Iraq as a ‘gesture to the Iraqi government’, while Turkey experiences a major drought problem…