Overly Friendly Neighbours: Iran’s Influence in Iraqi Kurdistan

By Histyar Qader.

This article was originally published by Niqash. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

What plans do Iranian diplomats have for Iraqi Kurdistan? Recently there have been high level visits from both sides and locals say the Iranians, a major trading partner for the Kurdish, are meddling in politics there too.

After years of conflict between one of the major political parties in the semi-autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan and its rebellious offshoot, the two groups finally met at a negotiating table in late September. And who was it that brought them together? Some say it was Iran.

The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Change movement fell out particularly badly in late 2009. Generally power in Iraqi Kurdistan is shared between the two major parties in the region - the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).

But in 2006 one of the two founders of PUK - Nashirwan Mustafa - broke away to form another party, the Change party. This group demanded an end to corruption and nepotism among the current leaders and campaigned on an anti-corruption platform.

The relationship was never friendly again but after 2009 elections, when the Change Movement made inroads into the electorate in Iraqi Kurdistan, the head of the PUK, Jalal Talabani, described Mustafa as “destructive” as well as putting some of the blame for one of Iraqi Kurdistan’s most horrible events on him.

This year though, the relationship has been thawing. And at the end of September, Talabani and Mustafa met up. Some say that one of the prime influencers of this new friendliness is Iran.

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