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.”


Iran builds new centrifuge rotor factory: Nuclear chief

Updated 18 July 2018
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Iran builds new centrifuge rotor factory: Nuclear chief

  • The factory would have the capacity to build rotors for up to 60 IR-6 centrifuges per day
  • Iran has begun working on infrastructure for building advanced centrifuges at its Natanz facility

Iran has built a factory that can produce rotors for up to 60 centrifuges a day, the head of its atomic agency said on Wednesday, upping the stakes in a confrontation with Washington over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear work.
The announcement came a month after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said he had ordered agencies to prepare to increase uranium enrichment capacity if a nuclear deal with world powers falls apart after Washington’s withdrawal from the pact.
Under the terms of the 2015 agreement, which was also signed by Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany, Iran agreed to curb its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.
The other signatories have been scrambling to save the accord, arguing it offers the best way to stop Iran developing a nuclear bomb.
Iran has said it will wait to see what the other powers can do, but has signalled it is ready to get its enrichment activities back on track. It has regularly said its nuclear work is just for electricity generation and other peaceful projects.
Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said the new factory did not in itself break the terms of the agreement.
“Instead of building this factory in the next seven or eight years, we built it during the negotiations but did not start it,” Salehi, said, according to state media.
“Of course, the [Supreme Leader] was completely informed and we gave him the necessary information at the time. And now that he has given the order this factory has started all of its work.”
The factory would have the capacity to build rotors for up to 60 IR-6 centrifuges per day, he added.
Last month, Salehi announced that Iran has begun working on infrastructure for building advanced centrifuges at its Natanz facility.