mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
Shiite Cleric In Iraqi Kurdistan To Defuse Crisis

In an interview with an AP journalist yesterday, the president of the Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq threatened secession—a move that could exacerbate tensions in an already fraught political scene.

As Fox News reports,

“What threatens the unity of Iraq is dictatorship and authoritarian rule,” Barzani said in a 45-minute interview in his sprawling office outside of Irbil, the capital of the Kurdish region he leads in northern Iraq. “If Iraq heads toward a democratic state, then there will be no trouble. But if Iraq heads toward a dictatorial state, then we will not be able to live with dictatorship.”

He called it a “very dangerous political crisis in the country” and said the impasse must be broken by September, when voters in the Kurdish region may consider a referendum for a state independent of Iraq.

Meanwhile, prominent Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr visited Iraqi Kurdistan in an attempt to diffuse the crisis. Sadr has deep ties to Iran but is somewhat less friendly with Iraq’s prime minister Nouri al-Maliki. Nevertheless, Maliki owes his position to the support of Sadr’s parliamentary bloc.

Politics in Iraq is getting interesting. If Sadr, the Kurds and Tariq al-Hashemi (a former vice president, ousted by Maliki) align against Baghdad, with support from Turkey and the Gulf sheikdoms, Maliki could be out.

Features Icon
show comments
  • Richard White

    Did you really mean defuse (neutralize) rather diffuse (spread) the crisis?

    • Walter Russell Mead

      @Richard White: And another intern enters the House of Pain.

  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    This is excellent cultural progress, cultural lessons learned in Iraq reverberate throughout the Islamic world and are responsible for the Arab Spring.

  • Lorenz Gude

    I don’t pretend to understand the complex Sadr, but I think it is a mistake to see him as primarily an Iranian ally. His family is Arab, not Persian, and he was known as a fiery Iraqi nationalist before he and the US Army came to blows. I think what may be going on here is Sadr vying for power within the Shiite side of Iraqi politics. Playing the peacemaker and limiting Maliki’s ambitions. Sooner or later I think he is very likely to succeed. He seems to be learning coalition building as opposed to seizing power through the Mahdi Army. Saddam murdered his father, who was Iraq’s senior Shiite cleric at the time, and two of his brothers. I don’t know if he is likely to turn into a dictator in his turn or become the leader of an Islamic republic like Iran, but I am pretty confident he is an Iraqi Arab who will not subordinate Iraq to Iran.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service