The Timing and Place of Barzani’s Speech

July 30, 2012

President Barzani’s speech about the current crisis with Baghdad and the issues surrounding the removal of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki was right in that it answered his critics, but it should have been given to a different audience, in a different place, at a different time and in a different language.

The speech did not achieve the impact it should have, especially as the crisis escalated and Iraqi soldiers approached the Syrian border close to Kurdish territories.

As an observer, I was first of all surprised that the speech was not televised. The second surprise was that it was in Kurdish. Especially with the recent escalation of tensions, Iraqi Arab public opinion is very much against the Kurdish region. The media in Baghdad has been full of pro-Maliki voices to say the least, and they are all depicting Kurds as those who want everything.

President Barzani’s speech touched on many issues related to the future of Iraq as a whole, not just as pertains to the Kurds. One of the key points in talks with Baghdad has been the vision of the country’s federal future. But this is not known to the Arab public.

In the absence of a strong Kurdish presence in Baghdad’s media, a televised message from President Barzani in Arabic for the people of Iraq would have explained the Kurdish position to the rest of Iraq. It would have also been a strong response to Maliki’s NRT interview.

Right now, the text of the speech is available in Kurdish. An Arabic translation is available on the presidency website. At the time of writing this article, the Kurdish text had received 2,900 hits; the Arabic, 680 hits.

A day after the speech, very few websites or news services, apart from Kurdish ones, ran the story. Even the KDP’s newspaper in Baghdad, Al-Taakhi, ran a summary of the speech in Arabic and said that they would provide the full text the following day.

Although the Kurdish audience has heard many of the points that were raised in the speech, it conveyed less hope and confidence in the future, along with a number of unanswered questions and issues that need more explanation.

The main question being: if confidence in Maliki was lost as far back as 2008, why did the Erbil Accord take place and why was Maliki appointed as PM two years after that? Shouldn’t this speech or the one Barzani made at Newroz have been delivered in 2008 or shortly thereafter?

This leads to the issue of Maliki’s poor performance and warnings that he was leading the country to an unknown destination. There should have been constant reminders to the public by ministers and representatives in Baghdad.

As things stand, it seems that the Kurdish officials in Baghdad have no issues with Maliki; it is only those in Erbil. This should have been dealt with a while back, and the reverse should have been true.

President Barzani should have been the person to settle the dispute and not the one to initiate it or the last resort. This would have been done by representatives trusted to think and make decisions independently, without having to go back to Erbil about everything.

The final impression of the speech is of being stuck and not knowing what to do, offering anyone who has a better solution to come and help.

At times of crisis, the people look to the leaders for answers and guidance. The leaders must have answers and provide a roadmap for the future.

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