President Barzani’s initiative in forming Iraqi government was a minuscule triumph
Kurdishaspect.com - By Dr. Kirmanj Gundi
After some eight months following the Iraqi national election and because of the bigotry existing among the Iraqi political/sectarian/ethnic blocs towards each other, Iraq was left in abeyance with no viable national government until Mr. Barzani invited all the Arab factions to Hewlêr to pull the country out of its eight-month political crisis and form the new Iraqi government earlier this month.
Conceivably, a key factor for lack of cooperation among the Iraqi blocs was the profound distrust that had been rooted in Iraq’s multi ethnic society. Although, Shiites have always been the religious majority in Iraq and the Kurds were the second largest ethnic nation after Arabs, Iraq had always been ruled by an iron fist of the minority Sunni Arab governments. Another obvious linchpin was the meddling of the regional governments, mainly the neighboring countries, to influence Iraq’s future political outcome in order to serve and preserve their interests.
Mr. Barzani’s Iraqi initiative received noticeable encomium from political spectrum at the national, regional, and international level. President Talabani, in his speech to the Iraqi Parliament, referred to Mr. Barzani’s initiative as a “historical role.” Maybe historic for Mr. Talabani—because, without Mr. Barzani’s support and insistence, he could not become president for the second term—and for Mr. Barzani it was a win-win situation, because as long as Mr. Talabani is in Baghdad, Mr. Barzani remains the undisputed president of the KRG.
To exalt Mr. Barzani’s role, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) media machine manipulated the event as a confirmation of Mr. Barzani’s unique political personality and the solid and strong Kurdish base in Iraqi politics. The KDP media circuits showed Mr. Barzani as a fortified hero. Indeed it was a heroic move that he put forth in order to stabilize “Iraq” by mending consensus among the rival Arab political-sectarian factions.
Undeniably, a stable and functioning government in Iraq is a necessity. However, the initiative was made by the KRG President, who is presiding on an internally divided KRG government. Since the division in the KRG political structure in Hewlêr has already weakened the Kurdish “support system,” his initiative would not possibly be perceived by a “unified Baghdad” as an act of an entity with strong legs on a solid ground to negotiate for the sequestered Kurdistani territories.
Further, the KDP media outlets used the opportunity to repudiate those who hold the belief that the Kurdish base in Iraqi politics has been weakened, particularly after the July 2009 national election. Ironically, while Iraq is still a “lame duck” country with a deeply divided socio-political mentality—Arab political attitudes with regard to the Kurdish national demands have not changed—they have maintained their stubborn stand to deny the implementation of Article 140 in the Constitution, which calls for normalization of Kurdistan. To date, they have preserved the policies implemented by Saddam Hussein’s tyrannical regime against Kurdistan’s territorial integrity.
Well, could Mr. Barzani’s “strong” Kurdish power-base convince Arabs to ratify Article 140? Could Mr. Barzani’s influence in Iraqi politics stop Arabs in Baghdad from postponing a referendum in Kerkûk for three consecutive times? Could Mr. Barzani’s political influence prevent the Governor of Mosul from denying the Kurds their legitimate right in Mosul to join the power sharing in the provincial government? Was Mr. Barzani’s Kurdish power-base effective enough to provide security for the Kurds in Mosul and prevent Arabs from murdering and expelling them from the city? Has Mr. Barzani’s influence been able to stop Arabs from pouring back into Kerkûk? Could Mr. Barzani’s political base stop Arab chauvinists in Jalawla from murdering and internally displacing Kurds from the city? One would claim, if Mr. Barzani has such a renowned and strong political base in Iraq, he should have been able to take action against these atrocities aimed at his people, because all these have been happening while he was the KRG President. Sadly enough, Mr. Barzani’s influence has only been prevailing in helping “Arabs” with their unity. His initiative to unify Arab factions by inviting them to Hewlêr was supported by Iran and Turkey. This raises another question in the minds of concerned Kurdistanis—would these two stubborn occupiers support, as the KDP media outlets claimed, a “strong Kurdish position” in Iraq?
In the Kurdish national Court, President Barzani’s maneuver cannot be ratified as a strong Kurdish power-base in Iraqi politics, because the move he made was to strengthen the Arab “unity” in Baghdad. This same unity could be exploited against the Kurds in the future as it has been exerted in the past. In the post-Saddam era, every Iraqi government including Mr. Maliki’s government, has leaned towards chauvinistic approaches and prolonged Saddam’s policies vis-à-vis the “changed” demography of Kurdistan. It is interesting to know the purpose behind Mr. Maliki visit to Ankara and Tehran. Was the rationale of his visit to have their permission for the implementation of Article 140, which would give the Kurds a strong political-economic base in Iraq, or was it to have their support to deny the implementation of the Article? Well, Mr. Maliki’s past speaks louder than his “empty” future promises.
In order for the people of Kurdistan to have a strong political base in the post-Saddam Iraq, Mr. Barzani needs to start acting like the president of all people and all areas of Kurdistan in Iraq and stop pinning the badge of the “KRG President,” on his collar, but acting as the “KDP President.” Working for a strong party base rather than a people-oriented government cannot and will not make him a strong national figure.
Kurdistan under President Barzani has been, for years, importing very basic needs from Iran and Turkey. In effect, through these policies, Mr. Barzani has made Kurdistan a new “economic colony” of Turkey. Suitably, one would question, how can he and his KDP talk about a strong Kurdish political base in Iraq while presiding over a still ruined Kurdistani economic infrastructure.
While Kurdistan remains an economic colony, many Kurds in Diaspora and Kurdistan have been developing into rich and reliable intellectual faculty in various scientific and academic fields. These intellectuals have always been willing to serve the people of Kurdistan. In addition to the Kurdish intellectual faculty, Kurdistan enjoys two international airports, thus resources could have easily been transferred to Kurdistan to rebuild Kurdistan’s economic, health, and educational foundation. However, due to lack of trust the Kurdish political mentality has created, Kurdish intellectuals have been barred from partaking in serving their country unless they joined the political party establishment. For the KDP leadership it was more appropriate and comforting to make Kurdistan a Turkish economic colony than inviting fellow Kurdish experts and professionals to help them in rebuilding Kurdistan’s infrastructure so that the kind of political power base Mr. Barzani and his KDP propaganda apparatus claim could become a reality.
Furthermore, in summer 2007, President Barzani was en route to China through Kuwait—while in Kuwait, he was informed that the Chinese President would not meet with him. The reason for the Chinese President not meeting with Mr. Barzani was that according to Chinese foreign affairs policies, China’s head of state meets with heads of states of other nations; and Mr. Barzani was not a head of a state. It was not something personal against Mr. Barzani, but Mr. Barzani took the issue personally and refused to visit China.
Mr. Barzani should have gone to China, met with and built relationships with Chinese officials. While in China, Mr. Barzani could have asked for an informal meeting with the Chinese President—he did not do that, because to him the Kurdish leadership was about him and not about the people of Kurdistan. If a head of state does not meet with him, he will not visit that nation even if the visit is perceived to be a positive step towards building more support for the plight of his people. Perhaps, to Mr. Barzani it is not important that China is one of the five permanent members with a veto power in the UN, and its veto could impact Kurdistan’s future status. Mr. Barzani should be reminded that when one is in a leadership position, everything he does will be about the cause for which he strives and serves. Thus, the Kurdish leadership is not about him, but rather it is about the plight of oppressed people of Kurdistan.
Moreover, how many people know about heads of other federated states (i.e., federated states of Switzerland or Russian federated republics?). Not many people know about them, because they are not heads of independent states. Therefore, heads of independent states do not have to meet with heads of federated states. If some heads of states, particularly in the West have been meeting with Mr. Barzani is because some of the Western countries have been directly involved with Iraq since the American led coalition’s first invasion of Iraq, or they may have a sort of sympathy for the people of Kurdistan.
In addition, after few insignificant successes over the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the KDP leadership have been behaving as if they have achieved triumphs in securing all the Kurdish national rights in Iraq. Thus, they have been paying more attention to their political power base than strengthening the Kurdistan unity—their attitude towards Dr. Barham Salih’s government is patent evidence.
Sadly enough, one could ask what could justify self/party glorification while violations against the Kurds and their historical national demands continue by the Arab authorities in Baghdad? Instead of such an unwarranted self-glorification, Mr. Barzani should start behaving like a concerned leader and establish a cohesive and inclusive national government in which every member of the Kurdistani society has equal opportunity to serve his/her country. He and his KDP establishment need to stop the practice of excluding those who are not part of their political structure. They need to create a system that is based on democratic principles and allow for more intellectual development in Kurdistan; and let all those who are capable of contributing to the economic, political, academic, and scientific fields play their role in promoting the Kurdistani society.
Mr. Barzani’s glory and power-base lies in practicing in Kurdistan what he preaches in Baghdad. The internally broken Kurdish political structure cannot have a fortified defense system before Baghdad. Therefore, the broken Kurdish political house must be rebuilt and renovated sooner rather than later. Mr. Barzani as the KRG President must take another initiative—a national initiative to establish a strong Kurdish national unity in which every member of the Kurdistani society feels secure in his/her person. He must reconstruct the Kurdistani economic infrastructure in which the people of Kurdistan can rely on their own home made/grown products in order to secure their own future—only then can Mr. Barzani claim such a stalwart political base in Iraq—only then can he assert such a glorification.
Kirmanj Gundi is a professor at the Department of Educational Administration and Leadership at Tennessee State University. .