Iraqi leaders in Kurdistan to mediate over Barzani crisis

Ammar al Hakim, Ayad Allawi and Salim al-Jabouri
From left to right, Ammar al Hakim, Ayad Allawi and Salim al-Jabouri. Photo credit: AFP/

ERBIL/SULAIMANI, Kurdistan region ‘Iraq’,— Top Iraqi leaders seeking to reconcile deadlocked and rival Kurdish political parties are reportedly visiting the Kurdistan region to act as mediators between the entrenched factions, including Ammar al-Hakim, the head of the Shiite Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, and Iraqi Parliament Speaker Salim Jabouri.
The crisis erupted after Massoud Barzani, whose term as Kurdistan President ended on August 20, 2015 but refused to step down, and continues to function as leader. According to the law in Kurdistan, Barzani cannot run for presidency anymore.

Massoud Barzani has led Kurdistan region as president from 2005 for two executive terms and his last term was extended in 2013 by ruling KDP and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) for two more years on the condition that he can no longer run as president.

Tensions escalated between the Gorran (Change) movement and the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) over unpaid public worker salaries. This resulted in violent protests in Sulaimani province that the KDP blamed on Gorran.

Kurdistan region Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani—also from the KDP and the Massoud Barzani’s nephew—removed four Gorran ministers on his Cabinet in retaliation for the protests on October 27. A convoy belonging to Kurdistan Parliament Speaker Mohammed Yousif, a Gorran member, was also blocked from entering Erbil, and the KDP has said it no longer recognizes Yousif as being speaker.

The Gorran movement expressed its displeasure to Prime Minister Barzani’s move by releasing a statement decrying his actions.

“The filling of ministries without the parliament’s consultation is not legitimate and the KDP is solving problems with problems. It affects the Kurdistan region’s reputation in terms of democracy,” read a Gorran statement following the Cabinet sacking by the prime minister on October 27.

“The elimination of a minister is in the hands of the parliament, not KDP’s politburo,” Mohammed Haji, a Gorran official, told Rudaw on October 27.

Aiming to resolve the dispute, Hakim met with Gorran movement leaders in Sulaimani on Monday to discuss political issues in Iraq and the Kurdistan region as well as pending unresolved Erbil-Baghdad issues, according to Gorran media.

“Ammar Hakim has good relations with Kurdish political parties, and he will meet all Kurdish political parties for solving internal issues in the region because the issues will negatively impact the whole of Iraq too,” Habib Tarafi, spokesperson of the Islamic Supreme Council’s national faction in the Iraqi parliament, told Rudaw Monday.

Hakim is an Iraqi cleric and politician who leads the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, which was the largest Shiite party in Iraq’s council of representatives from the 2003 Invasion of Iraq until the 2010 Iraqi elections. Jabouri for his part will visit Erbil on Wednesday to meet Masoud Barzani, a Kurdish MP in the Iraqi parliament said Monday.

“Salim Jabouri will visit Erbil Wednesday to meet Masoud Barzani and Mohammed Faraj, leader of the Kurdistan Islamic Union (Yakgrtu), and leaders of other political parties,” Muthana Amin, head of the Yakgrtu faction in the Iraqi parliament, said.

Jabouri’s visit to Erbil is meant to resolve a political stalemate in the region and “to solve internal issues in the Kurdistan region. He wants to act as a mediator between the political parties,” Faraj said.

On October 28, Jabouri in a phone call with Yousif told him to take the initiative between the KDP and Gorran, Amin said.

Ayad Allawi, the president of the Iraqi National Coalition faction in the Iraqi parliament and former Iraqi prime minister, had also reportedly called on Masoud Barzani to allow him to mediate in the Gorran-KDP dispute, and the president allegedly welcomed the idea, according to a senior Kurdistan Islamic League member, who spoke to Rudaw on condition of anonymity on October 27.

The KDP however later dismissed the claim. In a statement issued by the KDP politburo one day later, the party rejected claims it had been asked by any party to allow outside mediation over a KDP-Gorran reconciliation.

Thousands of people demonstrated in the past weeks against KRG and KDP in Sulaimani city and several other Kurdish towns, demanding payment of their salaries from KRG and that KDP leader Massoud Barzani to step down. Several local KDP headquarter buildings were set on fire by the protesters.

Massoud Barzani has been accused by critics of amassing huge wealth for his family instead of serving the population. Barzani’s son is the Kurdistan region’s intelligence chief and his nephew Nechirvan Barzani is the prime minister.

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