4. One Kurdish Leader to Baghdad, One to Defend Kurdish State

A new deal has been struck between the two erstwhile rival leaders of Iraqi Kurds.

Jalal Talabani, head of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), and Massoud Barzani, head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (PDK) have agreed, according to DEBKA-Net-Weeklys sources in Kurdistan, on a division of labor: Talabani will move ahead with his plans to become Iraq’s prime minister and Barzani will stay behind to secure a unified Kurdistan.

The two Kurdish leaders were propelled towards their pact by a US government decision to dissolve the provisional Iraq Governing Council ahead of the June 30 transfer of sovereignty and replace it with an interim government, as recommended by Lakhdur Brahimi, the UN’s chief envoy to Iraq.

DEBKA-Net-Weekly has reported frequently on Talabani’s prime ministerial aspirations. He feels now that the time has come to throw his hat into the ring. He will be going to Baghdad with two deputies, Barham Salah, prime minister of the PUK fief in southeastern Kurdistan, and his intelligence chief, Kosart Rasul (referred to in DEBKA-Net-Weekly 153, “A Kurdish Deputy for Net Iraqi Leader)

Talabani decided to make his move now for two primary reasons:

  1. He wants to show Barzani that he is wholehearted in ceding his own segment of Kurdistan because he is serious about the union of the two Kurdish regions and governments. Under this union, Talabani will not give up his 20,000-strong army or his excellent intelligence service, but he will instruct them to cooperate with Barzani. By relocating to Baghdad, Talabani will tacitly approve Barzani’s city Arbil as the recognized capital of united Kurdistan.

  2. Both Salah and Rasul are US favorites, embraced by Democrats and Republicans alike and trusted in the American intelligence community. The two men have cultivated powerful contacts in the Bush capital that Talabani will find very useful.

Talabani comes well armed to his bid for the premiership; he enjoys the backing of the majority of Iraqi Shiite leaders, including ayatollah Ali Sistani, as well as Iran.

According to DEBKA-Net-Weeklys sources in Washington, President George W. Bush and his advisers are anxious to put the IGC behind them and go forward to create an interim administration that officiates under UN auspices. This change will ease some of the pressure preying on the Bush administration. Whenever a problem crops up in Iraq or the terrorists strike, the international television audience will be able to pin to the wall the provisional prime minister of Iraq rather than a US administrator.

Talabani is perfectly at home on the small screen. His English is fluent, he has a sense of humor and he is free of the annoying mannerisms that mar the performances of so many politicians and bureaucrats. He also has the gift of being able to couch complex situations in simple terms – a great asset Bush can take advantage of in this presidential election year.

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