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Misgivings on Barzani's Post-Referendum Moves

A parliamentarian expressed pessimism about the conditional resignation by Massoud Barzani from presidency of the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government

Mohammad Javad Jamali added that the move could be a "ploy" by the long-time Kurdish leader to cement his grip on power.

Barzani announced his resignation on Sunday, which went into effect on Wednesday, as his push at secession from Iraq turned out to be a grave miscalculation.

Late September, KRG held a general poll on independence in the Kurdish territory and parts of northern Iraq that came under its control in the summer of 2014.

Shortly afterwards, Barzani claimed most Kurds had voted in favor of a separate state, giving him a strong mandate to negotiate a peaceful secession from Baghdad.

But the poll was roundly rejected by the federal government and neighboring Iran and Turkey, and drew widespread criticism from the international community.

Soaring tensions with Baghdad, opposition from regional neighbors and pressure from Kurdish political parties forced Barzani to finally give up his post, which he had assumed in 2005.

Tasnim News Agency reported Iraqi media as saying this week that Barzani had set several conditions for leaving office, including that his nephew, Nechirvan Barzani, becomes the top official of the Kurdish autonomous region.

Nechirvan, 51, has served as the KRG prime minister for all but three years since 2006.

The elder Barzani also asked that the parliamentary and presidential elections, which were to be held on Nov. 1, be postponed to June 2018.

The Kurdish regional parliament voted in a session on Sunday to approve legislation to satisfy his demands, in the absence of members of Kurdish parties that had opposed the independence vote.

Hereditary Monarchy

Jamali told ICANA on Friday that Barzani had made a big mistake and was not in a position to set conditions for relinquishing office.

"His position is so weak that he cannot set conditions," he said, adding that the 71-year-old Barzani is close to retirement from politics.

The parliamentarian said despite Barzani's move to step down from presidency, his conditions mean he could be planning to strengthen his hold on Iraqi Kurdistan.

"Barzani apparently aims to establish a hereditary monarchy," said the lawmaker, who is a senior member of Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Commission.

Barzani's family plays an outsized role in the region's political hierarchy. His son Masrour, for instance, heads KRG's security apparatus.

In his televised address on Sunday announcing the end of his presidency, Barzani said he would remain a Peshmerga, or Kurdish fighter, and will continue to battle for his people's lifelong dream of independence, Reuters reported.

He will also remain head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party and will still sit on the High Political Council, a non-governmental body that emerged after the referendum.

Barzani's resignation came after the Iraqi Army retook the oil-rich Kirkuk and some other Kurdish-held areas outside the autonomous region last month.

Observers believe Barzani had counted on controlling the oil wealth of Kirkuk for running his separate state.

Kirkuk fell to Kurdish control after the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group swept across northern Iraq in a 2014 surprise attack and the Iraqi Army units stationed there crumbled.

The Baghdad government had long insisted that the Kurds pull out of the territories they had overrun, but its repeated demands had fallen on deaf ears in Erbil.

On Tuesday, government forces also took control of the key border crossing of the Kurdish region with Turkey.

Baghdad demands the Iraqi Kurdish leadership annul the result of the referendum vote. It has rejected a KRG offer to "freeze" the referendum to allow negotiations with Baghdad to settle differences.


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