Jan 9, 2013

Iraq’s next president

Some of the leading figures of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK)

 Abdulla Hawez

Lately the massive demonstrations in the predominately Sunni cities in the central and north of Iraq took over the talks about who will be Talabani’s successor as the president of the republic of Iraq. According to confirmed sources, even if Talabani’s health gets better, he will not be able re-enter the political life, due to the seriousness of his health condition. Now, quite serious meetings have started between the Kurdish leadership in Erbil and Sulimania to appoint someone to replace Talabani. However, apparently, there is more than one challenge that faces Kurdish leadership, Talabani’s the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in particular to nominate someone for Iraq’s presidency. On Sunday, the Prime Minister of the Kurdistan regional government (KRG), Nichervan Barzani has paid a quick visit to Tehran to discuss the matter with Iranian authorities, they have promised to back a Kurdish candidate for the position. Here are our predictions about Iraq’s next president based on information from sources close from Kurdish leadership:

Dr. Barham Ahmed Salih: Talabani’s favorite politician, and his most probable successor. He has built inclusive connections with American decision-makers, when he was serving as the PUK’s representative in Washington DC. Salih has PhD in computer engineering from the University of Liverpool. If Talabani’s health condition improves, he will be having more chance to get the position, because Talabani has always backed him. What decreases Dr. Salih’s opportunity to get the position is the strong refusal from Iran. Moreover, what reduces Dr. Salih’s opportunity further is the rebuff, even inside his party. Dr. Salih has never been loved inside the leadership council of the PUK, as he has always been appointed by direct interventions from Talabani. Also, many of the PUK leaders accuse him of being close from Masoud Barzani’s the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), the historical rival of the PUK. Furthermore, the Kurdistan’s main opposition party leader, Nawsherwan Mustafa that has split from the PUK, refuses Dr. Salih’s nomination for the post. Mr. Mustafa is Dr. Salih’s personal opponent; both of them are struggling to gain more popularity in their hometown, Sulimania, the KRG’s second largest city. Despite those challenges, he has resilient chance to get the position. Even though, according to the strategic agreement between Talabani’s the PUK and Barzani’s the KDP, the post of Iraqi presidency will go to the PUK, but Masoud Barzani, the close ally of Turkey, will be having louder voice in appointing Talabani’s successor. Barzani’s hand will most likely pick Dr. Salih, as Barzani has insisted in the continuing negotiations between the two parties that have started previous week. Correspondingly, the PUK’s interim leader, Kosrat Rasul Ali, will back Dr. Salih for the position.

Dr. Najmaldin Karim: He is the most recent becoming-popular leader in the Kurdistan region. Talabani’s close friend, and one of the most experienced Kurdish leaders. Dr. Kareem, the former director of the Washington Kurdish Institute is now the governor of oil-rich city of Kirkuk, both central government of Baghdad and the KRG are disputing over the territories of this city. Dr. Karim is a neurosurgeon with American citizenship. He came back to Iraq in 2010. Since becoming the governor of Kirkuk in 2010, massive construction and building process has undertaken in the city. For those who are familiar with the city, huge development can be felt. Dr. karim is famous of holding the stick in the middle. When al-Maliki’s ties with the Turkish government were at its lowest point, Dr.Karim has received both Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in less than a month. Despite, his ties with the Americans, Dr. Karim have meanwhile strong ties with Iranians and Turks. Furthermore, he is the most consensual person inside his party and among Kurds as well.

Hero Ibrahim Ahmed: Mrs. Hero is Talabani’s spouse, and daughter of one of the most important Kurdish figures in the recent history. What rise Mrs. Hero’s star in the competition of getting the Iraq’s presidency position is the strong backing inside her party, as well as from the main opposition leader, Nawsherwan Mustafa, the historical leader of the PUK that has split from the party in 2008. Mrs. Hero has Iran’s support as well. Yet, Mrs. Hero’s appointment might shut off by mass denial from the lower members of the PUK and ordinary people of the Kurdistan region due to her notorious history regarding corruption and nepotism. In addition, many are complaining of her low leadership and communication skills.

What’s important here is that Turkey will have a big hand in appointing Iraq’s next president. After backing the demonstrations in the Sunni cities that seems to become effective, Turkey’s next target will be the presidency. Whoever becomes Iraq’s next president, it will be a lose for Iranian regime, because no one would be as loyal as Talabani, Iran’s historical ally. Nevertheless, Iranians will not give up imposing their will, but sooner or later, they will understand that their leverage isn’t as strong as before.    


  1. Nice breakdown, who do you think is most fit, why? And why not the other 2?

  2. Dr. Najmaldin Karim has the expertise, mindset, skill set, and personality to add great value to Iraq if chosen as next President. He is a proud Kurd who has the acumen and emotional intelligence to skillfully navigate around tribal disputes because he deals with these issues on a daily basis in Kirkuk. He has an impugnable character and has worked tirelessly for his people for many decades. Aside from that, he is greatly respected in the USA and fundamentally understands how United States foreign policy works, which enables him to get out in front of issues and lead his people accordingly. I can say with certainty that he is the best choice and will lead Iraq skillfully should he be chosen as next President.