By Sarkawt Shamsulddin
Washington- On 31 August, the leader of Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) Masoud Barzani made a shocking move against its rival Jalal Talabani, leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). Barzani allied with then Iraqi President Saddam Hussain and invited Iraqi forces to retake Erbil, Kurdistan Region capital. He justified his move by countering PUK’s alliance with Iran. Since then, the KDP is a de facto ruler in Erbil and eventually Kurdistan. What many Kurds call “treason” made Barzani a decisive leader of Kurdistan. It seems that Barzani’s popularity was not hurt by partnering with the man who killed as well as massacred 8000 Barzanis and tens of thousands other Kurds.
Some KDP cadres are still taking credit for it and feel proud of partnership with Baghdad against a rival Kurdish group in 1996. They say that if Barzani did not move, Iraqi Kurdistan could have been an Iranian province; A claim that persuades many KDP followers. Nevertheless, Barzani is still benefiting from 31 August 1996 move, and he is limiting other political parties’ activities in Erbil by force.
In July 2014, Barzani’s forces made another shocking and uncoordinated move near Kirkuk and took over two strategic oilfields, Bay Hassan and Avana, without Kirkuk’s governer’s prior knowledge. Barzani used ISIS’s threat as a justification, but in reality, he needed the oil very much. Barzani has realized that he cannot make deals with Ankara if he does not have control over most of the Kurdistan’s oil revenue. Before that, it was PUK that controlled both Kirkuk and Sulaymaniyah’s oil fields.However, Barzani imposed KDP’s authority there. He is now selling the oil produced from these oil fields. To make peace with Kirkuk Governor Najmadin Karim, who opposed KDP’s move at the beginning, Kirkuk is now getting a share from the KRG oil revenue.
On March 11, NRT TV reported that Masoud Barzani led special KDP units toward Kirkuk and deployed more forces around Bay Hassan and Avana oil fields. The units are also deployed near Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) bases in Makhmour. Observers in Kurdistan Region believe that Barzani’s move in Makhmour is not for oil this time, but against PKK. They say that KDP is helping Turkish “surprising” attack on PKK in Qandil mountain, northern Iraq, and other places in Makhmour and Sinjar where PKK fighters exist.
Although Barzani has benefited from his surprising moves in the past and made him a decisive leader in Kurdistan, this time he might risk his future as dealing with PKK is not as easy as dealing with the PUK or the Change Movement (Gorran) toothless policy. If it comes under pressure, the PKK can turn both Erbil and Duhok to a war zone. In this case, not only Barzani but whole people of Kurdistan will be affected by it.