World in View: Kurdistan setback

November 16, 2017

From the November-December 2017 issue of News & Letters

A shaken President Masoud Barzani was forced to resign Nov. 1 as the independence referendum he promoted in Iraqi Kurdistan blew up in his face. The referendum passed as expected with over 90% of the vote, but, also as expected, all state powers blocked its implementation.

Both Turkey and Iran opposed Barzani’s move, closing their borders in response and threatening military action.

Iraq’s central government—with the help of Kurdish opposition forces—retook control of oil-rich Kirkuk from Barzani’s government. At the moment oil shipments from Kirkuk have been halted completely.


Tensions between factions have been exacerbated, with Barzani’s followers in the Kurdistan Democratic Party besieging the Erbil Parliament and attacking opposition lawmakers.

This is a major setback for Kurdish self-determination. If the debacle ends the career of Masrour Barzani, Masoud’s brutal son, it will be all that’s gained.

Nephew Nechirvan Barzani, who has served as prime minister, will attempt to rebuild relationships, along with his deputy Qubad Talabani, from the other major Iraqi Kurdish faction.

—Gerry Emmett, Nov. 2, 2017

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