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A Much Needed Friend in Northern Iraq - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Dr. Barham Saleh becoming Prime Minister of the Kurdish Region has great political value, not just for the Kurds, but also for the Arabs. It is true that this represents a [political] loss to Baghdad, but Barham Saleh will be taking his [political] value with him to Arbil.

How does who governs Kurdistan concern us?

We are very interested in this, particularly during the current stage. We will be facing a difficult stage in the future which requires Dr. Saleh and others like him in Iraq. It seems as if Iraq has avoided danger, but it is still perched on the edge of the abyss, and should it fall in, Iraq will take the rest of the region with it. If Iraq falls into the abyss it will drag others down with it, especially during this time when the US presence in Iraq is drawing to a close. Let us remember that the Iraqi crisis has been raging for six years, but it has had little effect on the region.

However we are less afraid [of any such effect] with the presence of a moderate who is able to see beyond Arbil and Sulaimaniyah, and who is in contact with Arab capitals.

Barham Saleh and the rest of the Kurdish politicians in Iraq played a role in constructing Iraqi unity and Iraq’s positive relations. It is also worth mentioning here the difference on the Iraqi scene, as the Kurds – contrary to our expectations – were the most tolerant and cooperative group [in Iraq], and also the most engaged in political work in Iraq despite the fact that the Kurds have spent decades seeking separation and fighting for this on more than one front. The Kurds sought to secede from Saddam Hussein’s Iraq because they suffered from oppression and subjugation. They were given this opportunity in the wake of the 1991 Kuwait war, whereupon Kurdistan separated from the rest of Iraq and it became the only region to be politically, financially and administratively independent of Baghdad.

Kurdistan experienced 13 rare years of independence, however the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s regime saw the Kurds lose much of what they had gained, and they were forced to follow the central rule of Baghdad, giving up some of their administrative and financial gains, and ending their independent self-government. Despite this, the Kurds were the only group that did not exercise violence [following the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s regime] and were the group most involved in Iraq’s [new] central administration. Although the Kurds are not Arabs, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari is persistent with regards to the rights of Arab Iraq, and its ties to its territory. Kirkuk remains the line of demarcation between Iraqi Arabs and Iraqi Kurds, and this is a conflict that threatens their fragile relationship. For this reason we hope for wise Arabs and Kurds on both sides in order to solve this problem which may spoil the previous good years.

We know that Barham is one of the most important movers on all political fronts in Iraq and abroad, as well as being one of the strongest Kurdish defenders of a Greater Iraq with his extensive contacts across the region. Barham is somebody who is looking to the future of Iraq, and believes that it is a country far greater than those who live in it today believe, and sees it as a model for a successful country. Kurdistan is privileged to be governed by a man like Barham Saleh, who does not look at his region in a narrow way in the same manner as some Arabs and Kurds, but instead sees a large area for coexistence, and an opportunity for a far-ranging political partnership. And this progress is beyond the scope of what those [who view the issue in a narrow way] can imagine.

We hope that Barham Saleh leaving Baghdad, and his position of Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq, to become Prime Minister of Kurdistan, does not represent merely a loss to the central government, or a gain to the Kurdish Region, but rather proves to be profitable for both sides. Iraq is in need of all its diversity in order to overcome this latest stage; it is in need of wise Kurds, Shiites, Sunnis and others.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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