The effects of the Kurdish independence referendum are still resonating within Iraq and the Kurdish territories. Masoud Barzani announced Monday that he will be stepping down from his position as president of the KRG, a position which he has held since 2004.
Last week, Iraqi forces took back Kirkuk from the Kurds after they had occupied it since ISIS forces attempted to take the city in 2014. It was at this same time that the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), under Masoud Barzani’s leadership, installed a pipeline to tap the region’s crude oil — a move that recieved heavy condemnation from the Iraqi government. Now, three years later, Iraq is pumping oil from Kirkuk again in partner with British Petroleum.
The Iraqi government has further responded to the referendum and has taken back control over the Rabia border crossing with Syria which was previously held by Kurdish forces. Rabia is four hours northwest of Kirkuk by vehicle. According to IraqiNews’s Khadim al-Aqabi, the head of the Iraqi border crossings department said the takeover came as forces had previously deployed in the Rabia region.
Now, Barzani, whose position technically expired in August of 2015, has announced that he will be stepping down from his presidency after 12 years as president of the KRG. Along with his resignation, which was approved by the Parliament of the Iraqi Kurdish region, Barzani has sent a letter to the Parliament outlining who he believes power should be distributed henceforth. According to AlJazeera, Barzani wants to see presidential powers divided between the regional government, parliament, and the judiciary. Further more, AJ reports that “Some in the Kurdish region believe that Barzani’s stepping down is of little consequence” and believe that he will maintain an influence from the background, allowing his family to “maintain its grip on the KRG”.
This move comes amid some confusion. Barzani’s removal from office is not unexpected in the region, but amid these heightened tensions, it is still unclear as to the motive of his descension, and as to what will happen next. According to AJ, some analysts suggest that Barzani’s stepping down will allow other Kurdish institutions more ability for influence, and will empower the Parliament which was only recently reactivated.
Barzani has been at the center of controversy for years, due to his pro-nationalist agenda, which often contradicts what Baghdad mandates.
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