Barham Salih to succeed Talabani?

By Harem Karem – Kurdistan Tribune – 21.9.2012 – The shaky structure of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) is going through a shift in its chain-of-command and institutions aimed at dealing with new circumstances and resolving the organisation’s long-term problems.

After spending three months in Germany receiving medical treatment, Iraq President Talabani returned to Kurdistan on 17 Sep. There is speculation that Kurdistan Regional President Barzani’s departure on 16 Sep was due to the fact that he is at odds with Talabani – holding him directly responsible for his failure in confronting Iraq prime minister Maliki.

The PUK has been trying to reorganise itself following a heavy setback in its stronghold of Slemani in the last general election. Now is a good time to do this, with the next elections just months away.

It is widely accepted that any political party that wants to get hold of power must first get a grip of Hawler. The current PUK deputy secretary and Kurdistan Vice President, Kosrat Rasul – whose supporters are mainly based in Hawler – is expected to replace Talabani as the secretary-general of the PUK. First Lady Hero Ibrahim Ahmed and Barham Salih, deputy secretary-general of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and former prime minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) are expected to become his deputies.

Barham Salih’s sights could be set on another political prize. Sources close to the US administration inform me that the main purpose of his visit to Washington in late August/early September was to lobby for the US to back him as the successor to Talabani’s post as President of Iraq. During his meeting with State Department and National Security Council officials, Salih is said to have claimed to have Barzani’s support. It’s unconfirmed whether or not he also met with CIA director David Petraeus.

In addition, sources have confirmed on condition of anonymity that Salih brought up the same topic during his recent visit to Iran. In 2007, Salih angered Talabani when, against the backdrop of Talabani’s emergency medical flight to Jordan, he met with Iranian officials and reportedly discussed his own goals in any succession.