Ali Hussein Fayli / Only a year prior from now, the Parliament of Kurdistan elected Nechirvan Idris Barzani for the presidency of the region. However, it is evident that he was, rapidly, able to set his seal; by enhancing relationships with Baghdad and extending outreaches with internal, regional and international parties. In fact, this is barely new, as he has always been known for mastering the “art of the possible". The relationship between Baghdad and Kurdistan has been drastic and rough for decades, for Baghdad always looked at Kurdistan with skepticism and query.
However, when someone like Nechirvan Barzani is on the wheel, it is only conceivable to ease the stance and shift the attitude towards confidence and resilience. His unique policy and rationality, renders him capable of marching through the minefield of the Iraqi-Kurdish dispute with wisdom and confidence, providing a role-model that Baghdad can willingly emulate.
After a lengthy service at multiple political and militant positions in Kurdistan, Barzani gained a keen holistic view - that’s often not favorable by some Kurdish opinions – which has proven effective, as he placidly balances between his governmental duties as a president, the requirements of the peaceful coexistence and the overlapping interests with Baghdad and the region. He, thus, successfully was able to maintain the confidence between Baghdad and Kurdistan under all circumstances, as he always insisted to make the maximum benefit with the least damage for both Kurdistan and Iraq. That is exactly what Barzani demonstrated last April during the financial crises; when Abd Al-Mahdi’s government decided to cut Kurdistan’s salaries without prior notice, as he rushed to address Baghdad this issue and reach plausible agreement. This behavior clearly represents his poised policy in managing the crises and hindering their escalation to disasters.
Since he was appointed a deputy prime minister in 1996, then a prime minister in 2006 and a president in 2019, many political, economic, and security tremors have struck Iraq. Even at the Kurdish internal level, great transformations took place and countless challenges emerged, which would have been sufficient to end the political career of any government and its president. But Nechirvan Barzani seized the moments and said openly, “No one can destroy our experience or what we gained, as we have passed a difficult and long path and we don’t intend to go back”.
Back in 2014, Kurdistan went through tough days as the oil prices collapsed in half, ISIS invaded Iraqi and Kurdish cities, the federal government cut Kurdistan's budget due to disputes over oil sales and the conflict culminated over the disputed areas, crowds of the displaced poured into Kurdistan, the economy was greatly crippled that the government had to deduct from the employees’ salaries, unemployment spread and private sector’s activity faltered. Against these challenges, Barzani moved to contain these issues and communicated with France, Germany, Britain, Vatican, Turkey, and Iran which contributed to taming the crises, especially with Baghdad.
Nechirvan Barzani is aware of the heavy legacy of Masoud Barzani and how deep-rooted it is in the Kurdish conscience. This spurred him to adopt new methods to manage the current challenges and difficulties and extend outreaches with the various political, tribal, and religious forces in Kurdistan and Baghdad. So it is not a coincidence that Kurdistan thrives economically and politically, and exhibits impressive scenes of cultural and religious coexistence among its components. Even in amnesty, Kurdistan’s leadership dared to turn the page of the dark past in an optimistic bid for a bright future; an example Baghdad essentially needs to emulate in order to achieve success.
As a president, Barzani represents the people both internally and externally. He supervises the relations and coordination with Baghdad and represents Kurdistan’s people in the Political Council of the Iraqi National Security, as well as the consultations and dialogues with the Iraqi government. Moreover, he also worked hard to enhance foreign representation in Kurdistan; as there are more than 30 international consulates and representations in Erbil. Nechirvan Barzani excelled in managing challenges and reinforcing the peaceful coexistence with other components. He gave Kurdistan a new character that’s looking forward to the future confidently, without abandoning its identity and reality.
This behavior has earned him respect both inside and outside the Kurdish region. It is known that during his political career he was inclined towards peaceful solutions that aimed to maintain internal harmony, for he realizes that the war will inevitably end and the litigants will eventually meet on the same table. His modesty in dealing with any member of society is witnessed as well; in 2010, after the headquarters of the parties of the Islamic Group and the Islamic Union in Erbil were attacked; he formally apologized as the head of the regional government.
Perhaps among the challenges Barzani inherited, the vague and unstable borders is the most cumbersome. It is a state of boundless confusion that poses exceptional burdens on everyone who is in responsibility. Barzani fared just fine in dodging the consequences of such a critical case, as he publicly criticized any PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) presence if it would provoke Turkey and jeopardize Kurdistan's stability. He also constantly insists on the importance of reaching a settlement regarding the disputed areas with the Iraqi central government. Reaching an agreement, closes the security gap in these areas and can terminally eliminate ISIS danger.
It is rumored that Nechirvan Barzani succeeded in politics but faltered in the economy due to the events of 2014. However, it is clearly self-evident that Kurdistan has become -since the end of 2013 - the strongest active investment and trade center in the region, as 55% of the Iraqi trade operations took place in Kurdistan solely, without taking into consideration that, even before 2013, 15 thousand domestic and foreign companies invested in Kurdistan, including several major international companies, especially in the field of energy.
It is an extraordinary moment in the Iraqi-Kurdish history, as it comes at a critical time that offers a huge opportunity for decision-makers in Baghdad to extend the hand of trust. As on the other side, Nechirvan Barzani says, "What we want for Erbil, we want for our capital Baghdad… We chose to be within the framework of a united Iraq and we promised to work according to that constitution which more than 80% of the Iraqi people voted for. We are involved in building Iraq and we will provide everything we can to protect the unity of Iraq. However, it is Baghdad’s policy that is of hegemony and domination. The crisis lies in building confidence between us, but Baghdad does not deal with us as a partner".