Unconventional thinking about the Middle East.

Friday, November 18, 2005

What is Kurdish for ‘Ouch’?

Michael Rubin—recognized as a friend of the Kurdish cause—plowed into the Barzani clan today in an article on Middle Eastern corruption:

“Take the case of the Iraqi Kurds. Long championed as a model of liberalization, they are becoming a regional embarrassment. Rather than pursue democracy, the Iraqi Kurdish leadership is more consumed with self-enrichment. Following Iraq's defeat in 1991, the Kurds rose in rebellion against Saddam Hussein. The leader of the Kurdish Democratic Party, Massoud Barzani, returned to Iraqi Kurdistan with little but respect for his family name. Fourteen years later, his personal worth is estimated at close to $2 billion. Corruption and nepotism are rife. No foreign businessman can strike a deal in his region without entering into partnership with Barzani or a favored relative. Human rights workers in Irbil say they have met Kurds imprisoned for failing to pay kickbacks. Across the region, the Barzani family conflates government, party, and personal property. Local militias uphold not the rule of law, but rather serve as Barzani's enforcers. The Kurdish Parliament, meanwhile, is flaccid; its power no greater than that of its Syrian or Libyan counterparts.”

The protective aura of ‘victimhood’ that had protected the Kurds from criticism, is finally wearing off. Irresponsible leadership (see my column, Kurds Marching Off, back in March 05) brought them to this point. However, there is plenty to say about Jalal Talabani’s nepotistic corruption, too. I had hoped that Mr. Rubin could have leveled his criticism more evenly.


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