President Talabani’s silence

Kamal Chomani

By Kamal Chomani:

Kurdistan Regional President Masoud Barzani’s outburst against Iraq Prime Minister Al-Maliki and their war of words has surprised me less than Iraq President Jalal Talabani’s silence.

The Barzani-Maliki conflicts look more personal than disagreements for the benefit of national interests. They look more like regional conflicts, in which Barzani resembles Turkey and Maliki resembles Iran. Between these two, Talabani’s silence has surprised us. How come Barzani threatens the Iraqi government while Talabani is the president of Iraq? Barzani accuses Maliki of leading the country to dictatorship – so why has Talabani been silent about Maliki’s dictatorship these past few years? Why hasn’t he spoken out about this? And, crucially, doesn’t Barzani want to condemn Talabani for his silence? Many questions are raised by this dispute.

There are several high-ranking Kurdish leaders in Baghdad: President of Iraq Jalal Talabani, Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, Deputy Prime Minister Dr Roj Nuri Shaways, along with several other ministers in Al-Maliki’s cabinet and about 50 MPs. Apart from these, there are some high-ranking Kurdish officials within the Iraqi Army and other state institutions. Kurds are part of Iraq’s power hierarchy.

While President Barzani has expressed his disappointment over Al-Maliki, President Talabani has not made any negative comments about him. This is strange. The KDP and PUK harshly criticize Kurdish opposition parties and the independent media for not presenting a united front with regard to the Iraqi central government but, meantime, Talabani and Barzani have completely different views on the current issues with Baghdad and, in particular, Al-Maliki.

When Talabani and all other Kurdish high-ranking officials do not criticize Al-Maliki, why does Barzani’s anger reach a peak?

Both situations – Talabani’s silence and Barzani’s anger – need to be considered. Talabani’s silence shows how Kurds are divided, which can easily make all the Iraqi fractions disregard Barzani’s threats. However, while Barzani’s anger is undermined by Talabani’s silence, compared to Barzani the Iraqi President’s status as a Kurdish ‘nationalist’ leader has been weakened. This might be the only way that Barzani benefits.

The two leading Kurdish leaders have a vastly different understanding of the political turmoil and conflict with Maliki and it is questionable why Barzani talks about independence when he knows that even his ‘closest friend’ and only political ally is not with him.

Talabani, because he is close to Iran, cannot oppose Al-Maliki, a pro-Iranian Shiite.  Barzani is close to Turkey and plays a vital role in Turkey’s political games against Al-Maliki in Iraq.

The conflict became more controversial when the fugitive Tariq Al-Hashimi settled in Kurdistan. Barzani had to support him for two main reasons. First, as he said, Kurdish ethical customs do not allow them to hand over a guest. But the second reason was because of Turkey’s support for Hashimi. Basically, Hashimi became a serious problem for us. Kurds are not tribes obliged to receive a fugitive man who has been accused of association with terrorist acts. We support the rule of law and so we ought not to receive him. Barzani had to be more realistic. Talabani was initially silent on Hashimi before he eventually backed Al-Maliki on this matter.

Barzani talks about independence whereas Talabani led the Baghdad Summit. Talabani didn’t say a word about the Kurdish cause at the Baghdad Summit. He preached, more like a Nationalist Arab leader, that his only dream is to remove Israel from the Arab Holy Lands.

Barzani has threatened Al-Maliki with many things. I believe he cannot be successful simply because he is alone in the conflict. Talabani’s silence clearly suggests that Barzani will come out of this game with empty hands.

We should not support one religious sect or political fraction against another in Iraq. In the Barzani-Maliki conflicts, I think the ones who really benefit are the Sunnis and Allawis.

All in all, we have realized how much we are divided in Iraq. We have also reached the point where no Kurdish leader can do anything without support from the public. We are immensely in need of a national discourse and a new regional policy. We should know our allies – and the Kurds, not Barzani or Talabani, must have these allies. It is also disastrous to build a government if, after a few months, that government treats you as a minority. This is all because of the failure of the Kurdish leadership to develop a good, strategic policy to solve the domestic problems and also build successful relations with Baghdad.

Copyright © 2012

One Response to President Talabani’s silence
  1. Halmet
    April 13, 2012 | 19:12

    good comparison!
    may be Barzani has a goal but no one really knows what is it! yet, he’s covering it with nationalist rhetoric. Or he’s just a mercenary for the Sunni /Turks, which he has a history of doing that more than any other politicians in the Kurdish history.

    Everyone knows that Talabani loves attention. so let it be in Arab summit, Kurdish, Turk or Iranian doesn’t really matter as long as he gets that attention. he says whatever on the top his head at the moment and he has no problem denying it later and accuse others for misinterpretation of his words.

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