Iraq and Turkey: Two Spitting Cats

This morning on  Ataturk Cadessi in Antalya I stopped to watch two cats in a spitting stand off.  The smaller was making noises I had never supposed cats could make.  The larger was standing frozen, inches away from the noise and fangs.  I don’t know what the dispute was about, most likely the favored place under the side-walk table, where food might be handed down from on high.

Two Feuding Cats, Antalya, Turkey

I couldn’t help but thinking of the morning’s headlines, in which PM Nouri Al Maliki of Iraq lashed out at Turkey’s PM,  Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who had recently hosted Maliki’s Sunni rival,  Tareq al-Hashemi, who has left the country after being accused of running death squads, as well as playing footsie with  Massoud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan northern Iraq.

Baghdad: Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki has branded Turkey a “hostile state” with a sectarian agenda, the latest in a series of bitter exchanges between the neighbours.

Al Maliki was responding to comments made by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday in which Erdogan accused the Iraqi leader of fanning tensions between the country’s Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds with his “self-centred” ways.

“The recent announcements by Erdogan represent another return to flagrant interference in Iraqi internal affairs,” Al Maliki said in a statement on his website.

“His announcements have a sectarian dimension. To insist on continuing these internal and regional policies will harm Turkish interests and make it a hostile state for all.”


The bad feeling is confirmed in another article from a reporter who accompanied Erdogan to the recent Qatar conference, ostensibly about trade and development but actually focused on the Syria problem.

“We have no intention of interfering in Iraq’s internal affairs. It was Maliki himself who asked Turkey to enter Iraq economically,” Erdoğan said. “Others come from 10,000 kilometers away and interfere in Iraq. You go and talk to them. Iran calls you and you go there. But when it comes to Turkey you make these remarks,” he said, referring to the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the close cooperation between Maliki, who is Shiite, and Iran. “It is not important what al-Maliki says. He cannot come between us and our Iraqi brothers. The Iraqi people do not share his views. Al-Maliki should note this very well. His merciless attitude is out of keeping with democracy. He refers to us stoking sectarian trouble. We have no such problem.” Erdoðan indicated that it appears that al-Maliki himself has a sectarian problem “in his own inner world.”



The streets aren’t filling with anxious citizens over this.  Syria is a much closer and more pressing problem.  It does show that Turkey is part of the broad mix of strong Middle Eastern countries, which the others must pay attention to.

Back on the sidewalk, the bigger, white cat slowly turned his head away from the confrontation, all the rest of his body still frozen in immobility — as if finally showing boredom with the whole thing, but ready as an unsprung trap to deal with any nonsense.


My bet is that Turkey is the bigger cat.

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