(NewsGlobal.com)- Iraqi Kurdish politics are a multigenerational Middle Eastern Hunger Games in which families establish alliances to overcome rivals but later turn against one another, sometimes even against themselves, until only one is left standing. The19FortyFive website notes that Brothers turn against cousins and each other as leaders hand off the torch to the following generation.
In the recent history of Iraqi Kurdistan, that process has not been tranquil. Jalal Talabani formed his political movement in 1975 after turning on Mulla Mustafa Barzani.
Talabani and his deputy Noshirwan Mustafa did not hesitate to assassinate anyone who would challenge their political rule and the monopoly they sought over regional resources in the portion of Iraqi Kurdistan they turned into their own de facto fiefdom, although Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan joined the Socialist International and Talabani himself publicly opposed the death penalty.
As Mulla Mustafa battled cancer and died, his ten children fought over the political movement’s successes. Ubaidullah aspired to join Saddam Hussein to outperform his brothers. It was a wrong move. Masoud, the current Barzani leader, allowed Saddam’s tanks and Republican Guards into Erbil in exchange for removing his competitors. Masoud and Nechirvan, son of Masoud’s brother Idris, solidified influence in Barzani’s domain. Masoud appreciated Idris’ commitment and esteem from serving Mulla Mustafa before his heart attack at age 43.
Nevertheless, Masoud and Nechirvan plotted to drive out Masoud’s first cousins and Farhad, the former Barzani representative in Washington whose father Luqman was a Masoud sibling. (There are also additional cousins they successfully coopted, such as Sirwan, whose father and Masoud’s brother Sabir switched to Saddam’s side; Sirwan currently operates the local phone company for Barzani’s gain.)
Not all power-consolidation and maneuvering actions were peaceful. A terrible civil war between the Barzani and Talabani factions between 1994 and 1997 resulted in thousands of combat deaths and hundreds more deaths among prisoners of war. Although similar reports of his Peshmerga doing similarly exist, Barzani freely mentions Talabani’s lieutenants beating, immolating, and torturing prisoners in his memoirs.
The civil war did not put an end to murders. Fransu Hariri, an Assyrian supporter of Barzani, was murdered by terrorists in 2001, and many suspect Talabani was involved.
Jalal Talabani’s sons Bafel and Qubad conducted an internal coup against their cousin Lahur to ice out their cousin. Masrour, Masoud Barzani’s eldest son, is already working behind the scenes to stack the deck with his partisans. Elections have never served as a true gauge of electorate support in the region under the Barzanis’ influence. Instead, they have always been a lavish spectacle. The United States has a strategic reason to make it clear that Barzani-sponsored political assassinations are unacceptable.
The Barzanis act like pussycats when they speak privately with the intelligence community, even though they talk tough and generally mock American diplomats. Masrour will think twice if Director of Central Intelligence Bill Burns or his deputies draw a line now and make him aware of the personal price.