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Barzani's Goodwill Baghdad Tour

Massoud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, met with Baghdad's key political leaders in an attempt to generate consensus and compromise.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki (R) meets with Iraqi Kurdish President Masoud Barzani (L) in Baghdad, July 7, 2013.  Barzani visited Baghdad on Sunday for the first time in more than two years, in a symbolic step to resolve disputes between the central government and the autonomous region over land and oil. The visit follows an equally rare trip by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki who met Barzani in Kurdistan last month, breaking ice between leaders who have repeatedly accused each other of violating

Kurdistan Region of Iraq President Massoud Barzani's visit to Baghdad on July 7 carries many connotations. It also reflects an Iraqi environment favorable to dialogue, not only to resolve the problems between Erbil and Baghdad, but also to address the ongoing Iraqi crises at various levels.

Barzani’s visit to Baghdad sought to end the rift between the central government and the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, and to set out principles that can be invoked to resolve the problems between the two sides. It also firmly established a concept that seemed absent over the past three years, which is the spirit of initiative among Iraqi leaders.

Barzani did not content himself with official discussions with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, but sought to visit Iraqi political icons at their headquarters. He met with Iraqi parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi at the parliament headquarters.

He visited Ammar al-Ha kim, the leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), in his residence, and also held a meeting with Ayad Allawi, the leader of the Iraqi National Accord, at the movement's headquarters.

The common denominator between all these meetings is what Barzani himself stressed by saying, “The current Iraqi environment is suitable for national reconciliation.”

The term “national reconciliation” in Iraq was subject to a lot of generalizations, and was misleading over the years. The only constant is that Iraq has not seen a genuine reconciliation among its parties, nor has it had a chance to overcome the legacy of the past and move toward the future.

Through this visit, Barzani sought to confirm two main facts. First, Iraq can only be governed through a genuine consensus and partnership among its groups. And second, Iraq’s political class needs to rise above the differences and make concessions for the transition of Iraq from a stage full of challenges.

These indications have obviously emerged in the form and content of the visit, particularly since Barzani insisted on visiting Iraqi leaders at their headquarters and conducting expansive meetings that focused more on Iraqi affairs than Kurdish.

The most prominent question today is: Did Iraqi leaders understand Barzani’s lesson? Are they ready to make similar initiatives to hold bilateral and collective meetings to defuse the crisis and bring about the required consensus?

The answer to this question will be provided in the coming days, illustrating whether or not the current Iraqi political class will hold on to its positions in leading the political scene.

The Iraqi people expressed their satisfaction with Barzani’s visit — as they did with Maliki’s visit to Erbil, where he held a cabinet session a few weeks ago. This popular satisfaction reflects a popular willingness to accept mutual concessions by all parties and bring the country back from the brink of the abyss, which it has reached due to the tense policies of its political parties and leaders.

Barzani in Baghdad seemed like an older brother for various Iraqi groups, which is a position he deserves due to his political history and his regional and international weight. Yet, the Iraqi people need all of their leaders to have this attitude of being the “big brother” who embarks on real initiatives that Iraq needs today more than ever before.

Mustafa al-Kadhimi is an Iraqi writer specializing in defense of democracy. He has extensive experience in documenting testimony and archiving documentaries associated with repressive practices.

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