Iraqi Kur­dis­tan pres­i­dent re­fuses to meet Obama in protest over ter­ror list

The Kurdish Globe - - NEWS - By Or­lando Crowcroft

Mas­soud Barzani will not meet US pres­i­dent un­til Kur­dis­tan re­gion's two main par­ties are re­moved from black­list, says of­fi­cial

Mas­soud Barzani, pres­i­dent of Iraqi Kur­dis­tan, is a for­mer guerilla leader in the Kur­dish re­sis­tance against Sad­dam Hus­sein. Pho­to­graph: Mustafa Ozer/AFP/Getty

The pres­i­dent of Iraqi Kur­dis­tan, Mas­soud Barzani, will refuse to meet the US pres­i­dent, Barack Obama, un­til Amer­ica re­moves the Kur­dis­tan re­gion's two main po­lit­i­cal par­ties from its ter­ror­ist black­list, a se­nior of­fi­cial has said.

Falah Mustafa, head of the Kur­dis­tan Re­gional Govern­ment (KRG) depart­ment of for­eign re­la­tions, told the US em­bassy in Ir­bil that un­til the clas­si­fi­ca­tion of the Kur­dis­tan Demo­cratic Party (KDP) and Pa­tri­otic Union of Kur­dis­tan (PUK) was changed, Barzani would not take up the in­vi­ta­tion to visit Obama.

The KDP and PUK have been on the US black­list since 2001. Barzani – the cur­rent KDP chief and a for­mer guer­rilla leader in the Kur­dish re­sis­tance against Sad­dam Hus­sein – did not make a sched­uled visit to Wash­ing­ton on 27 Jan­uary and spec­u­la­tion has grown about his mo­tives.

Mustafa told the Guardian that he per­son­ally had been press­ing for a change in clas­si­fi­ca­tion of the KDP and PUK, de­scrib­ing their ter­ror­ist cat­e­gori­sa­tion as "un­fair, un­just and psy­cho­log­i­cally dam­ag­ing to the people of the re­gion".

"The mo­ment the in­vi­ta­tion was sent [in Jan­uary] I spoke to the [Amer­i­can] am­bas­sador per­son­ally and said that the pres­i­dent would not visit the US un­til this was sorted out," Mustafa said from his of­fice in Ir­bil.

"I wrote to them last year and the year be­fore and we were promised at the high­est lev­els that this is­sue would be sorted out. [It has not] and that is the only rea­son that Pres­i­dent Barzani is not vis­it­ing the US … He will not go un­til it is sorted out."

Mustafa said Iraq's Kurds were one of the only groups in the Mid­dle East to ap­pre­ci­ate the sac­ri­fices made by US troops in over­throw­ing Sad­dam in 2003. The US and Bri­tish in­va­sion of Iraq and sub­se­quent over­throw of Sad­dam gave the Kurds the de­gree of au­ton­omy that they have to­day.

"Amer­ica did not re­ceive a sin­gle ca­su­alty here in this re­gion dom­i­nated by the PUK and KDP, which they con­sider ter­ror­ists. The ques­tion that needs to be asked of the Amer­i­can govern­ment and Congress is how can you al­low this to con­tinue? It is wrong, it is un­fair and it has to be reme­died," Mustafa said.

"We were the only group in Iraq that shed blood for the sake of [the coun­try's] lib­er­a­tion. Our pesh­merga [Kur­dish mili­tia] fought side by side with the Amer­i­can spe­cial forces to lib­er­ate the north­ern front … and we are the only people through­out Iraq to tell Amer­ica thank you," he added.

Amer­ica is pop­u­lar by Mid­dle East stan­dards in Iraqi Kur­dis­tan, where it is not un­usual to see Amer­i­can flags draped across the back seats of cars and US dol­lars are widely ac­cepted as an al­ter­na­tive to the Iraqi di­nar.

Over the past decade the KRG has se­cured in­creas­ing au­ton­omy from the south, while for­eign money has flooded in from thou­sands of US, Bri­tish and Turk­ish com­pa­nies.

The US em­bassy in Ir­bil said the Con­sular Af­fairs Bureau (CAB) in Wash­ing­ton han­dled all visa-re­lated in­quiries. The CAB did not re­spond to re­quests for com­ment.

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