Veteran Iraqi Kurdish politician announces new party

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Barham Salih
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Masoud Barzani
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Jalal Talabani
Updated 06 October 2017
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Veteran Iraqi Kurdish politician announces new party

BAGHDAD: After four decades with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), veteran politician Barham Salih announced the formation of a new party to participate in parliamentary elections in Iraqi Kurdistan, scheduled for Nov. 1.
“Today, crises weigh heavily on our people in Kurdistan, as a result of the dominance of a group of stakeholders over its capabilities,” said Salih, who served as prime minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) from 2009 to 2012, and deputy prime minister of Iraq from 2005 to 2009.
His new party, the Alliance for Democracy and Justice, aims “to fight injustice, corruption and monopoly” in Iraqi Kurdistan, he added.
“In response to the suffering (of Kurds), division, monopoly, conflict, the language of defamation and accusations of treason, our coalition has emerged to achieve social and political harmony, and to address the problems and crises accumulated due to mismanagement.”
Iraqi Kurdistan has been autonomous since 1991. Its autonomy was strengthened after the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, with a regional government and separate security forces.
The most influential political parties in the region are the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), headed by Masoud Barzani, and the PUK.
They have monopolized power in Iraqi Kurdistan since the 1990s, and have shared positions in the federal government for the last 14 years.
Salih was part of this system until he left Baghdad in 2012. The following year, he threatened to resign from the PUK in protest over the lack of transparency regarding party funds and decision-making mechanisms after its then-leader, Jalal Talabani, suffered a stroke.
A former Iraqi Kurdish ambassador and friend of Salih told Arab News on condition of anonymity that after the stroke, “the families (of Talabani and Barzani) took control of the leadership of the region.”
Salih “was Talabani’s stepson, but he wasn’t a family member, so he was excluded by the family,” the former envoy said.
“Also, he wasn’t a Peshmerga (fighter), so none of the PUK’s old political leaders backed his nomination for any regional or federal post.”
Salih — founder of the American University of Iraq-Sulaimaniya, and chairman of its board of trustees — has built a popular base among youths and intellectuals.
Repoar Kareem, a member of the Alliance for Democracy and Justice, told Arab News that most of its members “are young academics, experts, engineers, physicians and professors.”
He added: “We focused on those who have vision and ideas, and who can come up with solutions for Iraq’s major problems.”
No prominent political figures have been mentioned as party members. “If some senior leaders of the PUK and Gorran (the third-biggest party in Iraqi Kurdistan) defected to join Salih, he may get a role” in the KRG or the federal government, Abdullah Al-Zaidi, a leader of Iraq’s Shiite National Alliance, told the Arab News.
Salih spent a long time in the US, having been assigned to run the PUK’s office there in 1992, so many Iraqi politicians see him as America’s man in the region and in the PUK.
He “used to represent US interests in the PUK, in the face of most of the leaders of the party, who represented Iranian interests,” Iraqi political analyst Abdulwahid Tuam told Arab News.
“Since he left the PUK and hasn’t enjoyed the support of Iran, his chances of getting a senior post in Baghdad has significantly decreased.”
But Talabani’s death on Monday could lead to a succession challenge and subsequent divisions within the PUK. This could strengthen Salih’s position and bring more recruits to his new party.
“He’ll get seats in the Kurdish Parliament, but how this would impact the internal situation will depend on the names that join him,” said the former Kurdish ambassador.
“The situation in Baghdad is different. He may eye the presidency, but it’s almost impossible without the backing of the real players in Baghdad.”


White House Mideast team holds talks with Jordanian king

Keeping spirits alive Palestinian youths play with rollerblades by walls covered with graffiti at the sea port in Gaza City on Tuesday. AFP
Updated 20 June 2018
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White House Mideast team holds talks with Jordanian king

  • The US has been trying to rally support for projects to rescue Gaza’s economy, which has been weakened by an Israeli-Egyptian blockade, while continuing to isolate Hamas
  • Jared Kushner’s team plans stops in Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. No talks with the Palestinians are scheduled, though the Americans have left the door open to meeting with them

AMMAN: President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, kicked off a swing through the Middle East on Tuesday, meeting with Jordan’s king as part of a broader effort to lay the groundwork for an expected Israeli-Palestinian peace plan.

Kushner and White House envoy Jason Greenblatt held talks with Jordan’s King Abdullah, a key US ally.
A White House statement said the talks focused on US-Jordan cooperation, the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip and the US efforts “to “facilitate peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.”
US officials have said their peace plan is near completion and could be released this summer. But it faces resistance from the Palestinians, who have cut off ties since Trump recognized contested Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last December and moved the US Embassy in Israel to the holy city last month. The Palestinians, who seek Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem as their capital, accuse the US of siding with Israel in the most sensitive issue of their decades-long conflict.
Kushner’s team also plans stops in Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. No talks with the Palestinians are scheduled, though the Americans have left the door open to meeting with them.
The Palestinians seek all of the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip for an independent state. Israel captured the territories in the 1967 Mideast war. It withdrew from Gaza in 2005, and Hamas militants seized control of the territory two years later.
The US has been trying to rally support for projects to rescue Gaza’s economy, which has been weakened by an Israeli-Egyptian blockade, while continuing to isolate Hamas. The US, Israel and Western allies shun Hamas as a terrorist group. Details of the plan have not been released, but Palestinians fear they will get little more than a symbolic foothold in Jerusalem. They also fear that aid to Gaza will help strengthen Hamas’ control over the territory.
Jordan also has a stake in east Jerusalem, serving as the custodian of major Muslim and Christian shrines there. Jerusalem’s walled Old City, captured and annexed by Israel in 1967, is home to Muslim, Christian and Jewish holy sites.
Abdullah has also rejected Trump’s moves in Jerusalem. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refuses to relinquish any part of the city.
Netanyahu traveled to Amman on Monday for a surprise meeting with Abdullah, telling the king that Israel remains committed to the status quo of the holy sites in Jerusalem.
Abdullah told Netanyahu that the fate of Jerusalem must be determined in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, and that a solution should be based on establishing a Palestinian state, with east Jerusalem as its capital, on lands Israel captured in 1967.
Palestinian officials fear the Trump administration plan will leave them with a mini-state in the Gaza Strip, parts of the West Bank and a foothold in Jerusalem. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has said he will reject any plan being floated by the Trump team, arguing that the US has forfeited its role as mediator because of decisions seen as pro-Israel.