Kurdish leader steps down, criticises US
Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani said he would give up his position as President today, after an independence referendum he championed backfired and triggered a regional crisis.
In a televised address, his first since Iraqi forces launched a surprise offensive to recapture Kurdish-held territory on October 16, Barzani confirmed that he would not extend his presidential term after November 1 “under any conditions”.
“I am the same Masoud Barzani, I am a Peshmerga [Kurdish fighter] and will continue to help my people in their struggle for independence,” said Barzani, who has campaigned for Kurdish self-determination for nearly four decades.
The address followed a letter he sent to Parliament in which he asked members to take measures to fill the resulting power vacuum.
The region’s Parliament met in the Kurdish capital Erbil to discuss the letter. A majority of 70 Kurdish MPs voted to accept Barzani’s request and 23 opposed it, Kurdish TV channels Rudaw and Kurdistan 24 said.
In his address, Barzani vigorously defended his decision to hold the September 25 referendum, the results of which “can never be erased”, he said. The vote was overwhelmingly for independence and triggered the mili- tary action by the Baghdad Government and threats from neighbouring Turkey and Iran.
He added that the Iraqi attack on Kirkuk and other Kurdish held territory vindicated his position that Baghdad no longer believed in federalism and instead wanted to curtail Kurdish rights.
Barzani condemned the United States for failing to back the Kurds. “We tried to stop bloodshed but the Iraqi forces and Popular Mobilisation Front [Shia militias] kept advancing, using US weapons,” he said. “Our people should now question, whether the US was aware of Iraq’s attack and why they did not prevent it.” — Reuters