Iraqi Kurdistan names president’s cousin as their new PM

Masrour Barzani, who had been serving as national security adviser, is the son of veteran Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani. (AFP)
Updated 11 June 2019
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Iraqi Kurdistan names president’s cousin as their new PM

  • Masrour Barzani, who had been serving as national security adviser, is the son of veteran Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani

IRBIL, Iraq: Iraqi Kurdistan’s parliament named Masrour Barzani as the region’s new premier on Tuesday, a day after his cousin was sworn in as its president.

Masrour Barzani, 50, is the son of longtime Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani and had been serving as national security adviser for the autonomous region since 2012.

He won the votes of 87 of the 97 members present in the region’s 111-seat chamber — more than his cousin received when he was elected president late last month.

PM-elect Barzani will have one month to form the autonomous region’s cabinet.

The cousins hail from the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), which was founded by their grandfather Mustafa in 1946 and remains dominated by the Barzani clan.

Its main rival, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), boycotted Nechirvan’s election as president but at least some of its MPs took part in Tuesday’s session.

Born in Irbil in 1969, Masrour joined the Kurdish security forces, known as the peshmerga, as a 16-year-old.

He attended school in neighboring Iran, then returned to Iraqi Kurdistan to take part in the 1991 uprising against then-dictator Saddam Hussein before traveling to the US to complete his graduate studies.

During his tenure as national security adviser, Barzani had a major role in the region’s fightback against the Islamic State jihadist group, which swept across a third of Iraq in 2014.

He succeeds his cousin Nechirvan who had served as prime minister since 2012.

Nechirvan is now the KRG’s second president after Masoud Barzani, who resigned after 12 years in office following a controversial 2017 referendum on Kurdish independence that prompted Baghdad to reoccupy large swathes of Kurdish-held territory.


US ‘suspects’ Iran seized UAE based oil tanker in Strait of Hormuz

Updated 49 min 6 sec ago
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US ‘suspects’ Iran seized UAE based oil tanker in Strait of Hormuz

  • Ship tracking data shows the Panamanian-flagged tanker Riah stopped transmitting its location Saturday
  • A US defense official told AP that Riah is in Iranian territorial waters near Qeshm Island

LONDON: The US said it suspects Iran has seized an oil tanker that drifted into Iranian waters as it traveled through the Strait of Hormuz.

Ship tracking data shows the Panamanian-flagged oil tanker Riah, which is based in the UAE, stopped transmitting its location on Saturday.

The incident is the latest involving shipping in the region where tensions between Iran and the US have escalated in recent months. Iran has been accused of planting mines on several tankers as Washington ramps up economic and military pressure on the regime over its nuclear program and aggressive foreign policy in the region.

Iran also threatened to retaliate against shipping after British forces this month helped seize an Iranian tanker near Gibraltar as it attempted to deliver oil to Syria.

A US defense official told AP that Riah is in Iranian territorial waters near Qeshm Island, which has a Revolutionary Guard base on it. He said the US "has suspicions" Iran seized the vessel.

"Could it have broken down or been towed for assistance? That's a possibility," the official said. "But the longer there is a period of no contact ... it's going to be a concern."

The Riah, a 58-meter oil tanker, traveled from a port near Dubai through the Strait of Hormuz toward Fujairah on the UAE's east coast. After 11 p.m. Saturday something happened to the vessel, according to tracking data.

Capt. Ranjith Raja of the data firm Refinitiv told AP that the tanker had not switched off its tracking in three months of trips around the UAE.

"That is a red flag," Raja said. 

An Emirati official told Al Arabiya that the oil tanker is not owned or operated by the UAE and has not sent a distress call.

“We are monitoring the situation with our international partners,” the official said.

The ship's registered owner, Dubai-based Prime Tankers LLC, told AP it had sold the ship to another company.

Iranian officials have not said anything publicly about the ship.

*With AP