KRG plunged into fur­ther dark­ness af­ter Barzani steps down

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - Front Page -

A MIL­I­TARY de­feat by Iraqi forces fol­lowed by a with­drawal from con­tested ter­ri­to­ries re­sulted in Kur­dis­tan Re­gional Gov­ern­ment (KRG) Pres­i­dent Ma­soud Barzani step­ping down amid grow­ing fears of greater dis­or­der in the re­gion, which could pos­si­bly be trig­gered by a quar­rel between the po­lit­i­cal par­ties. Fol­low­ing Barzani’s res­ig­na­tion an­nounce­ment late Sun­day, the of­fices of KRG op­po­si­tion par­ties were re­port­edly at­tacked in sev­eral cities by mobs. The Gor­ran (Change) Move­ment and the Pa­tri­otic Union of Kur­dis­tan (PUK) said in sep­a­rate state­ments that sev­eral of their of­fices in the Duhok re­gion north of Ir­bil were looted or burned overnight. No ca­su­al­ties were re­ported.

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THE KRG cabi­net im­me­di­ately re­leased a state­ment fol­low­ing the vi­o­lent events, vow­ing a “le­gal re­tal­i­a­tion” for those “in­volved in vi­o­lence and in­sti­ga­tion.”

“Some groups ob­vi­ously in­cite vi­o­lence. Emer­gent provo­ca­tions caused sad­ness and worry among our ci­ti­zens. We called our po­lice forces to take con­trol over the sit­u­a­tion and not let any at­tack on le­gal and po­lit­i­cal in­sti­tu­tions and po­lit­i­cal party’s build­ings,” the KRG state­ment said.

While Barzani’s in­ten­tion to not to re­new his term af­ter Nov. 1 was ap­proved by KRG par­lia­ment, some me­dia out­lets re­ported that Nechir­van Barzani, his nephew and KRG prime min­is­ter, may take charge of an in­terim gov­ern­ment. It is also spec­u­lated whether the di­vi­sion between the Kur­dis­tan Demo­cratic Party (KDP) the PUK, which have in­flu­ence in Ir­bil and Su­lay­maniyah, re­spec­tively, would go deeper.

Ab­dulla Hawez, an Iraqi Kur­dish an­a­lyst, told Daily Sabah that fu­ture of in­tra-par­lia­ment re­la­tions in the KRG de­pends on the steps that the KDP will take, par­tic­u­larly from Mas­rour Barzani, head of the Kur­dish Re­gional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil, and his sup­port­ers who may not be very happy with his fa­ther step­ping down, as his grip on power may weaken.

“The KRG is al­ready split on the KDP-PUK lines as the PUK de facto rules Su­lay­maniyah and the KDP rules Ir­bil and Duhok. Each have their own pesh­merga forces de­spite hav­ing one gov­ern­ment, but the deputy prime min­is­ter, who is from the PUK, has more power in Su­lay­maniyah than the prime min­is­ter, who is from the KDP, and vice versa,” Hawez said.

Mustafa Ekici, the co­or­di­na­tor of Tur­key’s state-run Kur­dish lan­guage TV chan­nel TRT Kurdi, said that Ir­bil and Su­lay­maniyah are “al­ready kind of two dif­fer­ent coun­tries po­lit­i­cally and cul­tur­ally,” ad­ding that de­vel­op­ments in the re­gion can­not be eval­u­ated in­de­pen­dently from Iran and Tur­key.

“The [in­de­pen­dence] ref­er­en­dum process trau­ma­tized the [Iraqi] Kur­dish peo­ple. Barzani’s words de­not­ing the sense of trea­son due to the U.S.’s in­dif­fer­ent stance sums up the process well. It is ob­vi­ous he had too many ex­pec­ta­tions from Wash­ing­ton,” he said.

Fol­low­ing last month’s in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum, Iraqi forces launched an of­fen­sive to re­take ar­eas con­tested between the Iraqi cen­tral gov­ern­ment and the KRG and gained con­trol over them without much re­sis­tance. The de­feat trig­gered an in­tra-re­gional con­flict, and while the op­po­si­tion lam­basted the Barzani gov­ern­ment for act­ing feck­lessly by ig­nor­ing the warn­ings of an over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of coun­tries not to hold the con­tro­ver­sial ref­er­en­dum, the op­po­si­tion has been heav­ily crit­i­cized by the gov­ern­ment for trea­son due to the re­treat of pesh­merga fight­ers loyal to the PUK from con­tested ar­eas without putting up re­sis­tance, as a re­sult of al­leged ne­go­ti­a­tions with some coun­tries in the re­gion, par­tic­u­larly Iran.

Yes­ter­day, Tehran sig­naled a thaw af­ter Barzani’s res­ig­na­tion, as Ira­nian Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Mo­ham­mad Hos­sein Bagheri said the coun­try will lift bor­der re­stric­tions with the KRG "in the com­ing days,” which was im­ple­mented fol­low­ing the in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum, along with Tur­key. Bagheri, in re­marks quoted by the ISNA news agency yes­ter­day, also said if the KRG im­ple­mented its plan to break away from Iraq, "there would be blood­shed in Iraq and neigh­bor­ing coun­tries would be af­fected."

Hawez con­tended that ten­sions between the cen­tral gov­ern­ment and the KRG seem to be al­ready calm­ing down, en­cour­aged by the U.S., as Iraqi and Iraqi Kur­dish del­e­ga­tions have been meet­ing to set­tle is­sues of dis­puted ar­eas and bor­der.

“I think the U.S. will push both sides to de-es­ca­late and get to an agree­ment via ne­go­ti­a­tions rather than im­pos­ing or­der through vi­o­lence. Also, as Nechir­van Barzani, who is more ac­cept­able and flex­i­ble, steps in, I think there is a big­ger chance of agree­ment and per­ma­nent cease-fire between Iraq and the KRG,” Hawez said.

“How­ever, we should not play down the role of Iraqaf­fil­i­ated paramil­i­taries. If they don’t like the deal, they may re­turn to vi­o­lence, but I think the U.S. won’t let that hap­pen and wants the credit for this agree­ment to go to [Iraqi Prime Min­is­ter] Haider al-Abadi as he pre­pares to seek re-elec­tion in next year’s gen­eral elections.”

Mean­while, French con­sul-gen­eral to Ir­bil Fred­eric Tis­sot, a for­mer French diplo­mat, said that the West mis­led Barzani re­gard­ing the in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum.

"Yes, we mis­led him. … Look at the im­pli­ca­tions of the re­sults of the ref­er­en­dum for the Kur­dish peo­ple," Tis­sot said to Tur­key’s Habertürk daily, ad­ding that the anal­y­ses and data used to sup­port the ref­er­en­dum were er­ro­neous.

Be­fore the ref­er­en­dum, Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­doğan crit­i­cized a pic­ture of Barzani with Western diplo­mats, in­clud­ing Tis­sot, say­ing the KRG leader was en­cour­aged by the West and crit­i­cized them for sup­port­ing the ref­er­en­dum, which would have con­se­quences for Iraq's ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity and sta­bil­ity in the re­gion.

De­mon­stra­tors gather out­side the KRG par­lia­ment build­ing in Ir­bil, Iraq, Oct. 29.

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