Turkey is and will continue to be a critical partner of Iraq in exporting energy resources from this region, Ali Khedery, ex-advisor of the U.S. Secretary of State told Anadolu Agency in an interview.
President Donald Trump named ExxonMobil's former CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State in December 2016. Tillerson, who retired on Dec. 31, had more than 40 years’ service with ExxonMobil.
"In fact, I told Mr. Tillerson that we should try to help our Kurdish and Turkish friends by building on this relationship and turn the Kurdish Regional Government into a Turkish energy partner," said Khedery, who was previously an executive with ExxonMobil Corporation acting as a senior adviser for the Middle East, and who is also founder and Chief Executive Officer of Dragoman Ventures.
In 2011 Exxon Mobil, under Tillerson’s leadership, signed an agreement with the seat of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) administration in Erbil to produce oil from Northern Iraqi fields.
"This [carrying Iraqi and KRG oil resources] helps Turkey, our NATO ally, and our European allies by reducing their dependence on Iranian and Russian energy resources. It also helps Turkey and the EU to get more energy security," he said.
The KRG generally leans to the West and its values, according to Khedery, "I am grateful that Mr. Tillerson listened to that. We just now have to continue pushing together in the same direction," he underlined.
On the question of Iraq's recent energy agreements with Jordan and Iran, Khedery considers that it is in Baghdad's strategic interest to diversify the export routes of its resources.
Iran and Iraq signed an agreement to conduct a study for constructing a pipeline to export oil from Iraq's Kirkuk region through Iran in February this year. The country also agreed with Jordan to build an oil pipeline from Iraq to Jordan in November 2016.
"Before the so-called Arab Spring, they talked about building a pipeline and exporting to Syria, but obviously that is not possible now because of Daesh and all the civil war. So I think a pipeline across the southern provinces to perhaps the Saudi border, which is empty desert with no security threat, into Jordan will be Iraq's strategic choice," he explained.
Khedery also highlighted his optimism for the policies of Trump's new U.S. Administration and the entire Middle East team in the White House.
"I knew Bush's and Obama's Middle East team in the White House. I also now know Trump's entire Middle East team. The Trump team is excellent. They really are the best of the best. This team really knows the Middle East very well, and knows the leadership across the region very well," he explained.
Khedery shared that he worked with the current staff at the White House during the Iraq war, but added that they suffered from an incoherent policy under Bush and Obama.
"I am certain that they will not repeat the mistakes that Bush and Obama made. I'm certain that they are going to convince the President to be much smarter and wiser about changing U.S. policy to better align with their regional allies like Turkey, Israel and Arab countries," he said.
Khedery also expressed his confidence that the U.S. will be much tougher on Iran than either Obama or even Bush.
"I am really hopeful for President Trump now because of the national security team. They have spent so much time in Iraq. General Mattis worked in Iraq, and Rex Tillerson followed investments in Iraq and the Kurdish region. I hope Trump's team will convince the president to have a new strategy not only for Iraq but broadly for the Middle East," he said.
"The new U.S. policy in the Middle East will confront Iranian aggression in the region as a means of restoring and stabilizing the balance of power among the three main actors - the Persians, Turks and Arabs," Khedery added.
With regard to relations between the new U.S. administration and Turkey, Khedery said that it is too early to comment on the issue, but he expressed his optimism.
"If Trump listens to, supports and resources his team, it will be good for the U.S., for our EU allies - Turkey, Israel and the Gulf allies and will be bad for enemies. I think unfortunately Obama did the exact opposite. He ignored or did not pay sufficient attention to our friends, with Turkey being one of them," he said.
The U.S. and the coalition's anti-Daesh strategy is confusing and 'myopic' with a short term focus, according to Khedery.
"They want you to know the success of today but they are not focused on tomorrow or one year from now or ten years from now. That's generally been the problem with U.S. policy in the Middle East. So what I would hope and pray, with the American and coalition strategy, would be to focus on not how to defeat ISIS (Daesh), but on what happens the day after ISIS is defeated," he said.
Khedery also warned that if there is no emphasis on resolving the social and economic issues that led to Daesh's rise such as the lack of education, hope and justice, then something worse that Daesh would arise.
"ISIS is being militarily pushed back. However the focus must be on the day after. If there is no campaign of national reconciliation between Iraqi, Sunni, Shia, Arab and Kurd, then you will have something much worse," he concluded.
By Ebru Sengul & Zeynep Duyar