A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Monday, October 30, 2017

Mas‘oud Barzani Steps Down

Mas‘oud Barzani's decision not to seek another term as President of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) (despite his current term's having technically expired in 2015) is a rare case of a Middle Eastern leader stepping down as a consequence of his own mistakes. Barzani's insistence on forging ahead with the September independence referendum proved to be a serious miscalculation, and has led to the KRG's increasing isolation, with international air connections cut and neighboring coutries supporting Baghdad against Erbil. At this point, it will take considerable diplomatic skill to prevent civil war.

Barzani, who like his farher before him has strong tribal and family ties in northwestern Kurdistan and is likely to remain a force in the Kurdistan Democratic Party, where many of his clansmen hold important positions. A nephew, Nechirvan Idris Barzani, remains the KRG Prime Minister. The influence of the Barzani clan has dominated Kurdish politics since the days of the Mahabad Republic, and I suspect we have not seen the last of Mas‘oud Barzani.

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