ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Through its ambassador in Baghdad, Iran has intensified efforts to mediate among the quarreling triumvirate of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), Tehran’s traditional ally and main source of influence in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan Region.
Ambassador Hassan Danai Far met with the three main leaders of the PUK, Barham Salih, Kosrat Rasul and Hero Ibrahim in Erbil in a bid to end their quarrels over a planned convention and party reshuffle.
The party has been rudderless and reeling over several setbacks: Its leader Jalal Talabani has been absent and in Germany since a stroke more than a year ago and the PUK suffered a rout in the Kurdish legislative polls in September.
Danai Far also met with Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani, with whom he reportedly discussed bilateral relations and the situation in Baghdad.
“The Iranian ambassador’s trip is within the framework of visiting all parties, but it’s obvious he had meetings with PUK leaders about the issues within the PUK,” said Fuad Hussein, Barzani’s chief of staff.
“But he talked about security, Baghdad and other areas with President Barzani,” he added.
Earlier this month Salih, a top leader in the PUK politburo and a former Kurdistan prime minister, resigned from the party after a January 31 convention to discuss a new leadership and reshuffle was cancelled.
Salih said he was stepping down from the three-person committee with Rasul and Ahmed, which had allegedly been put together under Iranian mediation.
Rudaw sources say that in the past three weeks, two senior Iranian officials have been in touch with the PUK leaders, but have failed to resolve the quarrels.
“In politics one should not be disappointed, and I don’t think that the Iranians are disappointed, said Adnan Mufti, a senior official of the PUK. “They insist on patience and have deep breaths,” he said about the Iranians.
But the leeway granted to Iran to directly interfere in the internal politics of the Kurdish region has provoked some public and official distaste, with complaints that Tehran has been allowed to become the de facto ruler of Kurdistan.
The Iranian role in Kurdistan’s politics comes as part of Tehran’s efforts to protect its overarching influence and interests in the autonomous Kurdish enclave, following months of fruitless haggling by political parties over the shape of the next government.
The KRG held its legislative polls on September 21, but the winning parties have failed to agree on the shape of the new government. Many blame the delay on the PUK’s internal fissures, as well as its insistence on being treated as an equal partner of the dominant Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), despite the election rout.
Since the polls, several Iranian delegations have visited Kurdistan, and last month the three quibbling PUK leaders traveled to Iran for confidential talks with Iranian authorities.
A KDP delegation that went along included Nechirvan Barzani, the incumbent prime minister of the KRG and a prominent leader of the KDP.
Iraq’s Kurdistan Region shares an 800 kilometer border with Iran, most of it along territories controlled by the PUK.
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