What Talabani’s Death means for the Future of Iraq

Talabani’s erstwhile political rival and friend Barzani said, “I myself lost a friend, brother and a strong supporter.” Meanwhile, Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, Barzani’s new nemesis in the aftermath of the Sept. 25 independence referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan, also expressed his sadness. Abadi described Talabani as a “faithful partner” in the new Iraq, which signaled a tacit criticism directed at Barzani.

The Iraqi prime minister added, “In these sensitive times we’re more than ever in need of his moderation, wisdom and insistence on the unity of Iraq and Arab-Kurdish brotherhood in a united Iraq. We’ll always remember his definition of the people of Iraq as a wreath of flowers of different varieties.”

For the US State Department, Talabani was “a true statesman and a leader for all Iraqis.” The UK Ambassador to Iraq Frank Baker praised Talabani on Twitter as a “huge political figure in Iraq’s history.” Baker said Talabani showed “wisdom and compassion throughout his life.”

It is interesting to see that instead of Talabani’s “Kurdishness” to which he had devoted life, his “Iraqiness” was exaggeratedly emphasized by Western officials. For instance, UK Minister of State for the Middle East Alistair Burt called him “a respected statesman who served Iraq with distinction.”

To understand the huge vacuum that Talabani left in the already turbulent and scarred Middle East, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif‘s words must be considered. Zarif saw “an irreparable tragedy for both Iran and Iraq” in Talabani’s passing. Along similar lines, the Iranian Kurdish organization Komala, the archenemy of Iran’s Islamic regime, described Talabani as “one of Kurdistan’s absolutely finest and greatest.”

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