Developments in N Iraq likely to weaken Barzani’s hold on power

MNA – Nader Entessar Professor of Political Science says the recent developments in Iraqi Kurdistan region may weaken Barzani’s hold on power at least in near future.

Despite all warnings and oppositions from regional players, world major powers and some internal political Kurdish parties, on Sep 5 the Iraqi Kurdistan’s head, Masoud Barzaini unilaterally hold independence referendum not only to materialize his old unrealistic ambition but also to extend his illegal and undemocratic rule over the Iraqi Kurdistan region.

Now when Iraqi troops retook Kirkuk and Diala which were under the Kurdish Peshmerga forces control, all Bazrzani and his overt and covert friends’ dreams appear shattered.

To shed more light on the future of the Iraqi Kurdish region’s unilateral independence referendum and its effect on Barzani’s political future, an interview is done with Prof. Nader Entessar Professor and Chair of Department of Political Science and Criminal Justice, University of South Alabama.

Here is the full text of his interview:

Iraqi army retook the control of Kirkuk which was very important for Barzani’s independence referendum. How will this affect Barzani’s political future and his independence plan from Iraq?

Although things are still very fluid in Kirkuk, the retaking of the city is a major blow to Barzani’s prestige and goals of the recent independence referendum.  The two main parties in Iraqi Kurdistan, Barzani’s Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) have been blaming each other for the astonishing rapid fall of Kirkuk.  Some individuals within the PUK’s higher leadership, like Kosrat Rasul Ali, have blamed some member of the late PUK leader Jalal Talabani’s family (such as Bafel Talabani and Lahur Talabani) of “betraying” the Kurds in Kirkuk.  Masud Barzani in his recent speech has also indirectly blamed some other Kurdish leaders without naming them, for the loss of Kirkuk.  Looking beyond the blame-game, what we may witness is the emergence of two fault lines.  One may involve the Kirkuk-Sulaimaniyeh line controlled by Iraq’s central government in cooperation of certain elements of the PUK. THe other line will be drawn along the Erbil-Duhok axis controlled by the KDP.  This may weaken Barzani’s hold on power, at least in the near future.

Ankara in Kirkuk didn’t support Kurds instead supported Iraqi central government, despite its previous good relation with Barzani. Why?

Recent high-level meetings between the Turkish officials and the Iraqi government may have convinced Ankara that Barzani’s position was weakening and that Turkey’s interests would be better served by establishing strong relations with Baghdad.  Also, Turkey had become alarmed after Barzani ignored Ankara’s wishes not to hold the independence referendum.

Germany stopped the training of the Kurdish Peshmerga forces. Why?

Germany’s policy in this regard was in line with the broader EU policies on Iraq and Kurdistan.  The EU had opposed holding the independence referendum.  Germany, like most of the rest of major EU countries, had come to the conclusion that regional instability may follow the implementation of the referendum results.

Considering al-Abadi’s firm stance toward Erbil, how do you see his political future in Iraq?

Al-Abadi has strengthened his hold on power and has helped the perception of his leadership abilities among the Iraqi people, even among those segments of the population that in the past had not supported him.  However, how Prime Minister al-Abadi handles the ongoing situation in Kirkuk and the surrounding areas will impact his leadership legacy and his support base.

Why didn’t the US support Erbil?

I don’t have a definitive answer to this question.  Maybe the US was also fearful of further instability in Iraq and wanted to strengthen al-Abadi’s hands.  The US military brass also had little interest in further involvement in what could have turned into a quagmire.  But, the US policy is not cut and dry in thuis regard and may indeed change in the future.

interview by Payman Yazdani