Foreign Policy Blogs

Abadi verses Barzani: Who is the true hero?    


Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi has been hailed in many western circles as the unifier of Iraq but in reality, he is merely another sectarian leader, who murders and threatens his own people in order to hold a failed state together utilizing brute force.  To the contrary, Kurdistan’s Prime Minister Nichervan Barzani is a real leader who aspires towards peace.

The difference between Abadi and Barzani was best demonstrated last October, when 68 different Shia militias backed by Iran attacked the Kurdish city of Kirkuk and the disputed areas.  Al Abadi claimed that these operations were to keep Iraq united and are actions against the referendum. However, the former President of the Kurdistan Region Masoud Barzani and his son Masrour Barzani, who serves as the Chancellor of the Kurdistan Region’s Security Council, said many times before that the military attacks by the Iranian militias upon Kirkuk have absolutely nothing to do with the referendum and it was planned beforehand.

The referendum was merely an excuse and during the attacks upon Kirkuk and the surrounding areas, they rounded up journalists, looted and set Kurdish homes on fire.  Many Kurds were displaced. While the Iraqi Prime Minister and his political supporters all agreed upon punishing the Kurds, Kurdistan’s Prime Minister Nichervan Barzani has been going out of his way to urge reconciliation and to make peace with his political opponents.  Even after these horrific attacks upon Kirkuk and the other disputed areas, where massive human rights violations against the Kurdish people were committed, Kurdistan’s Prime Minister sought dialogue.  He sought peace even after the KRG lost over 50% of its revenues and more than 51% of its lands. Many Peshmergas and local security people died to protect this land from ISIS but still, Kurdistan’s Prime Minister wanted to avoid a war.

When a leader sees that his people are suffering grave human rights abuses by his political enemies, it takes wisdom in order to know how one should respond.  On the one hand, Kurdistan’s Prime Minister Nichervan Barzani had a popular mandate to fight back and to defend Kurdistan.   However, if Kurdistan had chosen to fight back, it could lead to chaos and an even worse humanitarian disaster emerging.  Therefore, instead of having the conflict that the Iraqi Prime Minister and all of the pundits supporting him called for, Nichervan Barzani decided to utilize public relations, press conferences, and press releases to promote peace for he believed that war was never in anyone’s interests. So Nichervan Barzani resorted to diplomacy. He started to demand that the Iraqi Federal Constitution get implemented.

In all of his meetings with world leaders, Nichervan Barzani asked the international community to force Baghdad to come to the negotiating table to solve the crisis.   While the Kurdish people were enraged at the Iranian militia’s atrocities and the fact that Abadi put additional sanctions on the Kurdistan region, Prime Minister Barzani continued to insist on solving the crisis through dialogue.

Barzani maintained this calm composure as Abadi asked the KRG to hand over the borders and airports. Nichervan Barzani didn’t give any aggressive speech against a Prime Minister who utilizes militias and foreign forces against his own people because he believes that peace and the preservation of human life is the greatest of virtues. For this reason, he won’t give up on peace.

In return for seeking dialogue, Baghdad merely insulted the Kurdish population and the employees of the KRG.   Baghdad closed down Kurdistan’s airport on October 29 while millions of refugees and displaced  are in Kurdistan and currently Sunni Arabs return to Kurdistan from the liberated areas due to the lack of security, lack of basic services and food caused by the Shia militias.  And without having international flights being able to reach Kurdistan, it was difficult to bring in international humanitarian aid.

While the Iraqi government didn’t send any budget to the KRG since 2014 even during the ISIS war, now after all the attacks, the Iraqi Prime Minister says that they will send KRG public servants salaries after the international community forced Abadi to solve the crises but he will not send it. He plays with the international community, insults KRG public servants and wastes time till after the elections.

He said that his government must revise and audit all the lists of the KRG employees and the KRG agreed to welcome any technical teams who seek to do it but till now, Abadi didn’t send even a dollar. The international community and Kurdistan’s Prime Minister keep asking Abadi to reopen the airports.  Abadi promised that many times and the KRG welcomed any technical teams who seek to work towards this end but they are still closed and Prime Minister Barzani said that all the technical issues have been solved, emphasizing that the so-called technical issues are in fact political excuses to extend the embargo.  It appears that the Kurdistan crisis won’t be solved until after the Iraqi elections for whoever treats the Kurds the worst will get the most votes.

Abadi talks about corruption in the KRG but the picture won’t be pretty if he looks at his own government and then talks about corruption in Kurdistan since there is huge gap in the Iraqi versus the Kurdish situation regarding security, the implementation of construction projects, the standard of living among the population, etc. People from Southern and Central Iraq come to the KRG for tourism but Kurds, Yazidis and Christians from Kurdistan can’t go to Baghdad.  Furthermore, anyone who travels from Kurdistan and Baghdad airports can easily feel the difference in quality between the airports.

In Kurdistan, the military forces are called upon by the people who fight for humanity on behalf of the world to protect not only Kurdistan but also the refugees and IDPs.  While the world often spoke out against the atrocities against ISIS, there is a deadly silence as the Iranian militias and Iraqi police forces rape Sunni women on a daily basis in refuges camps.

The contrast between Kurdistan and Iraq is vast.  Much money in Iraq is stolen or wasted by Iraqi officials.  The rate of prostitution in Iraq increases every day because of the poverty while even though the KRG did not get any money from Baghdad, the progress in various construction projects although not like before 2014 is still better than it is in Baghdad.   Furthermore, while there is no freedom of the press in Baghdad, journalists are free to operate in Kurdistan.

Barzani deserves credit for trying to avoid a war at all costs while Abadi is behaving callous and cruel towards Kurdistan and he committed crime for using militants and foreign military against his own citizens.  Many leaders, presidents and politicians have won the Nobel Peace Prize for promoting peace, stopping a war or avoiding a war throughout modern history.  Such leaders have merited the Nobel Peace Prize due to their heroic efforts in preventing a humanitarian disaster from wreaking havoc on their people.  Therefore, given this reality, it is fitting that Kurdistan’s Prime Minister Nichervan Barzani should win the Nobel Peace Prize for avoiding an international, regional and local war in Iraq.  He deserves to be commended as he was a leader seeking peace and international dialogue based upon the Iraqi Constitution when his adversaries did not want to give his people even the most basic elementary rights.   Through his diplomacy, Nichervan Barzani prevented what would have been a bloody war with great humanitarian suffering in Iraq.

Kawyar Shahed Omer worked as KRG Coordinator with international media outlets covering the frontlines against ISIS. She served on the press committee of the Kurdistan Referendum High Committee.   She has a BA in International Studies from the American University of Sulimani- Iraq.