Kurdish President Offers to Step Down

Violet Powell
October 31, 2017

The vote followed Barzani's announcement that he would not run in upcoming KRG presidential elections, which were recently postponed from November 1 to July 1.

Clashes raged in front of Irbil's parliament building after the president of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region, Masoud Barzani, dissolved his powers as president Sunday just over a month after a controversial independence referendum he spearheaded sparked a deep regional crisis.

Yet it is unclear if Sunday was the final curtain for Barzani, an ardent Kurdish nationalist since the age of 16 who took up the mantle of his father, the Kurdish leader Mustafa Barzani, after his death in 1979.

The men - reportedly KDP supporters angered by comments made earlier that day by Gorran MP Rabun Maroof about the president and the Peshmerga - attacked local journalists and trapped lawmakers inside until local police, known as the Asayesh, fired into the air to disperse them.

We welcome the recent decision from Prime Minister Abadi to begin a new dialogue with the KRG, under the Iraqi constitution, and avoid further confrontations.

Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and coalition forces had controlled the territory in northern Iraq for years after they pushed out Islamic State, or IS, militants. In a statement on Monday, the State Department praised Barzani as "a historic figure and courageous leader of his people, most recently in our common fight to destroy ISIS".

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The referendum on support for independence held in September has since left the region increasingly isolated. "We were a state within a state", said Kamal Chomani, a nonresident fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, in a phone interview Sunday.

Barzani said the vote was meant to provide a way to find a peaceful solution to the governing of the Kurdish area.

Iran has its own sizable Kurdish minority and has opposed independence for Iraqi Kurds.

"Three million votes for Kurdistan independence created history and can not be erased", Mr Barzani said, bitterly accusing his political rivals of "treason" for giving up the contested oil-rich city of Kirkuk to central government troops in the fighting sparked by the 25 September vote.

"Barzani is saying he doesn't want the presidency to exist anymore, and to create a new constitutional arrangement in a few days - that's actually a lot of work", Ali said in a phone interview.

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