Iran Calls the Shots on PUK Leadership Issue


by HEVIDAR AHMED RUDAW  – 23.5.2013 – ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Iran has proposed a temporary leadership council for the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in the absence of its ailing leader Jalal Talabani, and has preconditions for approving the party’s number two as Iraq’s president, officials said.

The PUK, the partner of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), has been without a leader since Talabani – who is also Iraq’s president — suffered a critical stroke in December and was flown to Germany. Since then, five senior PUK delegations have visited Iran, testifying both to the PUK’s close ties with Tehran, and Iran’s overwhelming influence in both Iraq and the autonomous Kurdistan Region in the north.

“Iran has suggested collective leadership for the PUK through a proposed council, which is currently being discussed within the party,” said Fareed Asasard, a party leader. “We have to decide whether this council will be a transitional body until the next PUK congress, or to make this council permanent,” he said. “The Iranian proposal might get acceptance and success,” because of divisions in the party over who should be the next secretary general, said another leadership member, who preferred to remain anonymous.

“The PUK council of collective leadership might be similar to the leadership council of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which was formed in order to prevent divisions among its ranks after the arrest of their leader in 1999,” he said.

He added that the PKK council makes all important decisions, while its leader Abdullah Ocalan remains in a Turkish jail, and all members take equal responsibility in different party matters. The Iranian proposal came after several visits by senior PUK officials to Iran.  Talabani’s wife Hero Ibrahim Ahmed, and his potential successor as Iraqi president, Barham Salih, also have visited Tehran. A PUK leadership member said that Iran was not ready to accept Salih’s nomination as president of Iraq without preconditions. “Iran’s preconditions for Salih becoming president are that he must not deviate from the general policies of Iran, he must not stand against the Shiites in Iraq, protect the alliance between the Shiites and the Kurds, and distance his close ties from the US and Turkey,” he said on condition of anonymity.

“Iran has a role and its opinion is important. Iran also played a role in the recent agreement between Erbil and Baghdad,” said Ala Talabani, another leadership member of the PUK. “Iran has a great role behind the curtains,” she said. She added that that the party had not discussed who would replace Talabani as Iraqi president, and that so far the Shiite-led central government in Baghdad had not demanded a name. Salih, the second deputy of the PUK secretary general, is seen as the most likely person to replace Talabani as president of Iraq. Asasard did not deny that Iran is carrying out its own agenda in Iraq. “Iran has new strategies for Iraq and has started executing these plans. Part of these plans concern the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, since Tehran has played an important role in making the recent agreement between the KRG and Baghdad a success,” said Asasard.