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Op-Ed: Nichervan Barzani saved Kurdistan!

Op-Ed: Nichervan Barzani saved Kurdistan!

After a very tense and difficult year for Iraqi Kurdistan, the relationship between the Kurdistan Regional Government and the government in Baghdad is finally improving.  Iraqi Parliamentary Speaker Mohammed Al Halbousi recently visited the Kurdistan region, where he stressed the importance of working with the Kurdistan region in order to fill the remaining ministerial posts and to start a constructive political process in Iraq.  He stressed the importance of helping the displaced peoples to return to their homes, finding common ground with the Kurdistan Regional Government on Kirkuk and agreed that the Kurdistan region deserves to receive their fair share of the budget as envisioned in the Iraqi Constitution.

With his visit, it appears that finally there is light at the end of the dark tunnel.  After a year of suffering and despair following the Kurdistan Independence Referendum, it appears that Kurdistan’s Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani saved his people from the intense suffering and despair that they were enduring.

When the Central Government decided to cut the KRG budget right at the time when the ISIS threat was emerging, it was a great tragedy for all of Kurdistan.   1.8 million refugees and internally displaced persons fled to the Kurdistan region but the KRG did not have enough funds to take care of them. To make matters even worse, the price of oil dropped right around the same period of time and oil is one of the main financial resources for the KRG.

When Abadi, the Shia militias and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards attacked Kurdistan about one year ago, they caused the KRG to suffer a further setback.  The Kurdistan region lost not only 50% of their lands but also 50% of their revenue.  To make matters worse, ISIS re-emerged in the areas vacated by the Kurdish forces in Sinjar, Kirkuk and the other disputed areas.   Following the Kurdish forces withdrawal, there has been a spike in kidnappings, insurgency attacks and general unrest.   Offices that used to belong to peaceful Kurdish political parties were transformed into bases belonging to Shia militias loyal to the Iranian regime, thus helping to reinforce the Shia Crescent from Iran to the Mediterranean Sea, thus posing a strategic threat to Israel, Europe and the US.  To date, Kirkuk and Sinjar have undergone systematic Arabization.  The Kurds, Yezidis, Christians and other groups have been ethnically cleansed from these areas.

However, what was a bad situation could have been much worse.   Sadly, the international community did not support Kurdistan’s Independence Referendum.  The US did not support the Kurds due to the timing of the referendum and was not willing to take any action in order to help Kurdistan.  Many heavy American weapons that were given to the Iraqis were being utilized in order to attack the Kurdistan region, which lacked such advanced weaponry since the weapons they were supposed to get in order to fight against ISIS did not materialize. Turkey was set to impose an economic blockade upon the newly founded nation, thus closing down Kurdistan’s only window to the rest of the world.   International flights were no longer permitted to land in Kurdistan.  Even worse, Abadi, the Shia militias and the Iranian regime were set on taking over all of Kurdistan, thus destroying the area’s autonomy.

Fortunately, thanks to the diplomacy implemented by Kurdistan’s Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, the full reign of horror that Abadi and his allies set to inflict upon Kurdistan did not materialize.  No other world leader could have masterfully utilized diplomacy under such adverse circumstances in order to convince the Turks to back off from blockading Kurdistan, thus leaving open a gate between the Kurdistan region and the rest of the world.  No other leader could have so skillfully empowered his forces to fight in order to keep every corner of Kurdistan, so that Abadi and his allies would fail to take over the whole area.  Indeed, it was only areas administered by non-KDP forces that surrendered in the end, even though they had inferior weapons to Abadi, Iran and their allies.  Indeed, KDP-administered areas stayed under KRG control.

After Kurdistan’s Independence Referendum, Mr. Nechirvan Barzani did everything in his power to reach out to other countries, both regionally and globally. His diplomacy to end the blockade resulted in a better financial situation and him receiving important support from the international community. As a result of his diplomacy, there are international flights to Kurdistan, there is no blockade on the area and the situation is getting better by the day.  And now, there is now an agreement to send Kirkuk oil through the Kurdistan pipeline in order to help Iraq increase its revenue because now Baghdad needs the funds in order to rebuild post-ISIS.  He also brokered other deals related to water, military and security cooperation.   During his governance as the KRG Prime Minister, he built a strong economic infrastructure in order to guarantee a brighter future for this region.

His background and what he has done in the past makes him the best candidate for KRG President. If he becomes the KRG president, he will strengthen relations with the neighboring countries and the world, which will guarantee a secure region with a stable economic situation.  His diplomatic efforts would result in more positive outcomes in the near future, both for Kurdistan and the rest of the world.  Therefore, everyone should support Kurdistan’s Prime Minister taking on the position of KRG President.

Sivan Gamliel is a freelance journalist based in Israel and is a political analyst working for the Dona Gracia Mendes Nasi Center for Human Rights in Middle East.