Newsletter subscribe

Features, Politics, Top Stories, World

Kurdistan on the Road to Desolation

Image Courtesy Sargis Sangari
Posted: November 1, 2017 at 9:29 pm   /   by

By LTC Sargis Sangari and Steven Weingartner

On 22 NOV 16 NEC-SE posted the article: ”President of KRG, Masoud Barzani, May Be Stepping Down Soon.”

In the article we stated that NEC-SE could confirm that Barzani is seriously considering stepping down from his position, and that KRG leadership meetings in Turkey could finalize the decision.

Our speculations about Barzani were based on certain indicators that he had finally recognized that his leaving the presidency was necessary to fulfill Kurdish aspirations for an independent state.

On the same day we referenced a published article reporting on an important meeting that took place at the annual conference of the Halifax International Security Forum in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Hosted by Canada’s Department of National Defense and Canadian Minister of National Defense Harjit Sajjan, the conference brought together more than 300 government officials, military leaders, experts, academics and journalists from 70 countries.

“Featured speakers at the 2016 conference included Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) foreign minister Falah Mustafa Bakir and the KRG representative to the United States, Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman.”

Their participation signaled that the Kurdish government was being given an opportunity to sit as an equal partner with the 70 countries represented at the conference, thus beginning the process of accepting and incorporating the KRG as a future sovereign state into the community of nations.

“Minister Sajjan underscored this point by delivering an opening speech in which he highlighted the role of Kurdistan’s Peshmerga forces in the fight against ISIS.”

“Minister Bakir spoke on a panel titled “The Return of the Nation State.” Bakir began his presentation by thanking the Halifax International Security Forum for giving Kurdistan, an “emerging democracy in the heart of the Middle East, The opportunity to be present here to share our experiences and also our aspirations.”

“He further stated, ‘we want the will of the people of Kurdistan to be respected. When we talk about “unity,” it has to be voluntary. There is no coercive unity, because coercive unities have not succeeded. . . . In Kurdistan we are proud of the culture of diversity and tolerance,” he said, adding “even with the rise of radicalization [in our region], Kurdistan has kept that nature.”

It was these remarks that NEC-SE interpreted as the indicators that Barzani has finally understood that he must step down from the KRG presidency and relinquish his family’s hold on power over the Kurdish people in order to ensure the creation of a democratic Kurdistan.

But, as events were to prove, Barzani did not step down. Barzani is a dictator, arrogant and proud and ruthless, and like most such men he is loath to relinquish power voluntarily or gracefully – even though doing so would be the most effective action he could take on behalf of the Kurds.

As a result, Barzani’s future, as well as the future of Kurdistan, is uncertain.

NEC-SE addressed this issue in our post of 23 OCT 17, “Barzani’s Doubtful Future.”

We stated, “Barzani will in no circumstances resign the presidency.”

Were he to do so, Yusuf Mohammed, the speaker of the parliament and the leader of the opposition Movement for Change (Gorran) party, would by law become president. Barzani will not permit this to happen so long as he is able to draw breath; he will do anything to ensure that a KDP leader controls the presidency. It remains to be seen whether he will succeed. NEC-SE predicts that he will probably fail.”

In our 23 OCT 17 post we further observed that recent developments in the KRG – principally, the seizure of Kirkuk by Government of Iraq (GOI) military forces – “have raised severe doubts about Barzani’s competence as the leader of the Kurdish ‘nation.’

But Barzani is a survivor, and has taken steps to ensure that, in the event that he is somehow incapacitated or otherwise rendered unable to fulfill his presidential duties, the office of the president would remain in KDP. To that end he has arranged for brother’s son, Nechirvan — who is also the prime minister of the KRG – to serve as acting president. Nechirvan would continue in this capacity until the election of a new president, preferably a member of the KDP.

In our 19 OCT 17, titled “The Kurdish House of Cards is Falling,” we wrote:

The Kurds are seething with anger in reaction to the Iraqi Army’s takeover of Kirkuk and part of Assyria Nineveh Plain in the wake of the 25 SEP 17 referendums. Much of that anger is directed at their own leaders for having failed them in what is now perceived as a reckless and doomed bit for Kurdish statehood. Events of the past few days have made the Kurdish people acutely aware that the KRG is a house of cards that will soon be toppled by their leaders’ incompetence.

. . . . Barzani’s refusal to back down on the issue of Kurdish statehood spurred the Government of Iraq (GOI) to take action. Ignoring warnings from Iraqi leaders and the global community, Barzani organized the referendum that saw the Kurds of the KRG voting overwhelming for independence from Iraq, forcing Baghdad’s hand.

Barzani made this move in part because he knew that the Peshmerga forces could not hold Kirkuk and did not want his PUK/PDK party to be blamed for losing the city. As well, he must have figured that placing a PUK party member in charge of the defense would ensure that PUK Peshmerga forces in Kirkuk would stand and fight even though their defeat was a virtual certainty.

But his principal reason for appointing Korast Rasuel over his son is that he had no confidence in Serwen’s ability to effectively direct Peshmerga in combat operations against the more capable and better-equipped Iraqi Army.”

According to recent atmospherics out of Iraq, the Kurdish leadership in Erbil is blaming the PUK for the loss of Kirkuk – just as Barzani thought they would.

Given these developments, we must ask: did Peshmerga abandon Kirkuk without a struggle because Kurdish soldiers hadn’t the stomach for a fight . . . or because their leaders had lost their nerve?

We must also ask: how does Barzani expect his soldiers would react after he removed his own son from his position as commander of Peshmerga forces? Did it not occur to him that this move would have a demoralizing effect on his soldiers?

Subsequently, Barzani made a deal to give a portion of his power to his brother’s son (nephew), Nechivran Barzanai, and the rest to the parliament.

This seems an act of desperation . . . and foolishness. Does he really believe that his sons will take orders from their cousin, a man they hate? We think not.

A past “meeting” between Barzani’s sons and Nechirvan almost ended in gunplay, with both parties brandishing weapons at each other. Their mutual animosity for each other has not lessened in the interim; if anything it has increased.

Nechirvan cannot be happy with the position in which he now finds himself. Barzani has buried him in parliament with no support or ability to form his own power bloc.

There are many Kurds who are disillusioned with Barzani, and their numbers are growing. Both the PUK and PPK have abandoned him: PUK forces did not fight in Kirkuk, and PPK forces turned over an important crossing point into Syria to the GOI. The dispirited PPK soldiers realized that, with Turkish army units coming down from the north and GOI forces approaching from the southeast, they were being presented with a choice between survival and annihilation.

They chose survival. The reason for the GOI’s seizure the boarder crossings were twofold. First, the GOI wanted to halt the smuggling of weapons oil between the Syrian and Iraqi Kurds. Second, the GOI wanted to to keep track of the amount oil leaving Iraq was (the KRG had never provided an accurate of the oil barrels it was exporting).

Israel, formerly an ally of Barzani’s, has also given up on him. Barzani thought that Israel would stand by him and fight for Kurdistan. But he never bothered to ask whether or why the Israelis would send their young men and women to Kurdistan to fight and die in support of a Sunni Muslim Kurdish dictator who has lost the support of his own people.

Nor did it occur to ask why the Israelis would commit to military action in support of a descendant of Saladin, a Tickriti Kurd whose Saracen army sacked Jerusalem and oversaw the building of the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount, thus ensuring that the Jews could not rebuild their temple on that site?

It seems that he did not ask these questions; or, if he did, he gave himself the wrong answers.

Did Barzani truly think he could play the Russians and the Americans against each other, given his contractual agreements with Turkey and Europe? Last week a Russian super bank began financing Turkish infrastructure development. Turkey is now, politically and economically, firmly in the Russian sphere. In the circumstances, Russians will be happier to see Barzani removed from power. The Russians have his money; and, that being the case, they don’t need him anymore.

That said, Putin was in Iran today and did push discussions on the Kurdish Referendum with Iran. At the same time the KRG delegation, meeting with GOI representatives in Mosul at the Saddam Hussein’s presidential palace, abruptly terminated negotiations.

This action by the Kurds virtually guarantees the outbreak of fighting when GOI forces move to clear Peshmerga from the Assyria Nineveh Plain and the border crossings into Syria. We expect GOI forces will commence operations sometime in the next 12 hours.

Barzani was for years looked upon as a wise man with excellent advisors. But he failed just the same. He believed himself to be indispensable to the Kurds; but he is not. The Kurds have rejected him – but, unfortunately for them, not before he almost singlehandedly destroyed their aspirations for statehood. Welcome to the death of a nation at the hands of a man who build his house on a foundation made of sand.

Today the Kurdish “house” is divided. A few days ago the Goran and the PUK Headquarters were burned in Zakho. The PDK did nothing to help put out the fires. The flames will continue to consume the Kurdish house as the Kurds battle the GOI to prevent the loss of all the territories they have acquired since 1991. The Kurds will probably lose this war, and in doing so the KRG will also lose support in the international arena.

On 30 OCT 17 the U.S. State Department Spokesperson stated: “The United States now looks forward to engaging actively with the Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government, Nechirvan Barzani, and the Deputy Prime Minister, Qubad Talabani.” The statement put a nail in the hearth of the Masoud Barzani and his return to the stage.

Unfortunately for the DOS, NEC-SE believes that a fight is coming between Nechirvan and Qubad and their respective factions, for the soul of the Kurdish peoples. Sadly, there can be no winners in this struggle. As Christ famously observed some 2,000 years ago, every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.

The Kurds are about to prove the truth of Christ’s assertion. Desolation awaits — especially when the Iraqi Army begins moving into Assyria Nineveh Plain and the boarder crossings sometime over the next few days.


LTC Sargis Sangari is the founder and CEO of NEC-SC. Steven Weingartner is NEC-SC’s Senior Editor. 


Sargis Sangari
Sargis Sangari

Latest posts by Sargis Sangari (see all)

Leave a comment

Kurdistan on the Road to Desolation