A debate with the Prime Minister. MERI Forum 16, S6

Date: 26th October 2016

MERI Forum 2016

Nechirvan Barzani, Prime Minister of Kurdistan Region of Iraq
Kenneth Pollack, Brookings Institute, USA

This is a summary of the panel discussion, please find the full video of the debates and Q&A above.

This session was designed as a question and answer session with Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani to uncover his views on solutions to the problems that the Kurdistan Region of Iraq is facing, as well as to present his vision for moving forward.

Kenneth Pollack began the session by centring the discussion on this forward looking approach, asking what the political arrangement will be for Mosul following its liberation. Barzani stressed the need for dialogue due to the composition of Mosul: “Mosul is a very small Iraq. We need Kurds, Turkmens and Shabaks, Assyrians, Chaldeans”. He also accredited the creation of IS to being the “result of a wrong policy in Baghdad”, therefore implying a new approach was required.

The discussion then moved to what should be avoided in post-liberation Mosul – sectarian violence. A disinclination to enter Mosul was attributed to the desire to avoid this: “we don’t want to enter Mosul because we don’t want to create a conflict between Kurds and Arabs”. Barzani also highlighted the “unprecedented level” of cooperation with Baghdad at a military level between the Peshmerga and the Iraqi army and the success of the operation to date.

The relationship with Baghdad was probed further by Pollack, focusing on the political dimension. Although Barzani stated that “Baghdad has a syndrome of centralisation”, he appreciated that the Prime Minister and other members of the national coalition consider that “our initiative is serious and there is discussion about the federal model”, although he noted that he believes that the federal model in Baghdad is gone now. He emphasised that there will be a “new Iraq” post-Mosul and that there would continue to be dialogue with Baghdad, made possible as Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi speaks a “new language”. However, he cautioned that it remains to be seen whether this translates into a new mentality.

Pollack then steered the conversation to the political deadlock in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq and the impact that this has on international support. Barzani argued that despite Pollack suggesting “compromise seems to have become a dirty word”, they are “ready to make compromises in order to reach a common understanding”. The economy was the next issue to be addressed, with Barzani calling for international support due to the regional economy being unable alone to cope with Baghdad cuts to the budget; IS; IDPs; and oil prices.

The discussion concluded with this issue of foreign assistance and the incoming US administration. According to Barzani, whoever is elected would be congratulated, but the incoming president “should appreciate the will of our nation” and the stability that the KRI provides to the region. However, he emphasised that “we have been given breakfast [from the coalition] but we do not know if we will get lunch” and therefore that more reassurances need to be given regarding continued international support.


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