Massoud Barzani, Kurdistan Region President
Washington, DC - Last Friday, Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani was scheduled to arrive here in Washington to meet White House officials. While Barzani was in Europe, the visit was suddenly canceled and nobody provided explanation for it.
The unexpected cancelation of Barzani’s trip to Washington led to the rise of questions on the state of the US-Kurdistan ties. Was it the White House that didn’t want to receive Barzani? Or was there something that made Barzani angry at the Obama Administration to such a degree?
Fuad Hussein, chief of staff for President Barzani says it’s the second reason, adding that Barzani cancelled his visit to Washington in protest to the hitherto failure of the US to remove his KDP party and another major Kurdish party from its list of Tier III terrorist groups.
Rudaw’s Washington office contacted the White House for comment. Nobody was willing to comment on camera. But in an email, a senior Obama administration official confirmed that the White House had nothing to do with the cancelation of the visit.
“The White House didn’t cancel President Barzani’s visit,” read the email sent Monday by the US official who asked not to be named. “We’d refer you to President Barzani’s office for information about his travel schedule.”
Turning down a White House meeting is a new form of protest that Barzani has tried for the first time. But how wise is such an action by the Kurdish leader in his dealings with a powerful nation such as the United States?
David Pollock, a former State Department advisor and a scholar at the Washington Institute who frequently visits Kurdistan, believed Barzani’s refusal to come Washington at this time didn’t represent an “estrangement” in US ties with Iraqi Kurds.
“I am sure the visit will be rescheduled,” he added.
Listing the KDP and PUK as Tier III terrorist groups stems from the classic US perception that any non-state militant actor rebelling against the state, may be listed as a terrorist group regardless of the goal the group seeks to achieve.
But now since that era of rebellion against dictator Saddam Hussein is gone, Iraqi Kurdistan is expecting the US to delist its parties from the category of terrorist groups.