Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani’s visit to Baghdad, shortly after the political saga over the two-year extension of his presidency, carries a different symbolism from the visit of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to Erbil.
The message of Maliki’s visit was to show that Erbil matters to Baghdad. But the only message one can get out of Barzani’s visit, which was preceded by events in Kurdistan and reactions from various parties, is that Baghdad could be a better place for Barzani. In other words, could step into the Iraq presidency, which has been left virtually vacant since President Jalal Talabani’s stroke in December.
The Iraqi presidency is a very important position for the Kurds and for the rest of Iraq. Already, the vacuum left by Mam Jalal (Talabani) is strongly felt. It will be felt even more when the current presidential term ends in Baghdad.
As for the people of Iraq, the Kurds proved that they are able to stand at an equal distance from all and contribute to defusing tensions between them. It was clear that stability in Baghdad and the rest of Iraq is important for stability in Kurdistan.
Some say that this is the role of any president, but this is not true. Right now, Khudhair Alkhuzaie is practically the president, but he is nowhere to be seen. The other non-Kurdish president was Shaykh Ghazi; again we all saw the sea change between his presidency and that of Mam Jalal.
Similarly, a strong Kurdish presidency is important for the Kurds because it will act as a safety valve in relations between Erbil and Baghdad, and contribute to a better bilateral relationship.
The presence of Barzani as president in Baghdad will guarantee closer contact between the leaders of the two sides. It will also mean that the problems of Kurdistan and Iraq will be solved in Baghdad not Erbil. This will give the Kurds an even stronger status than of having Barzani in Erbil. It will also enable quicker resolution of problems.
One of the main reasons for the escalating problems between Erbil and Baghdad is the lack of direct contact between the leaders of the two sides. This was clearly felt with the absence of Mam Jalal.
Many people said in the past that Mam Jalal is the last Kurdish president of Iraq. This may prove true if Barzani decides to stay in Kurdistan.
Some say that Barzani should not go to Baghdad because he has a Kurdish dream to fulfill. In today’s world, such dreams can only be fulfilled peacefully and with the consent of Baghdad.