Barzani, Massoud

(1946- )
   The current leader of the Barzani family and president of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), Massoud Barzani was born in Mahabad, Iran, on 16 August 1946, the same day his father and others founded the KDP. Until his father, Mulla Mustafa Barzani, returned from the Soviet Union in 1958, Massoud lived with his wealthy grandfather, a Zibari. The political situation forced Massoud to complete his high school studies privately. In 1971, he was elected to the KDP Central Committee and later to its political bureau.
   From 1976 to 1979 he lived in the United States with his exiled father. With the fall of Muhammad Reza Shah Pahlavi and death of his father in 1979, Massoud returned to Iran. These early years probably predisposed him to take a more cautious and conservative position, leading him to not fully trust the United States and to assume both that privilege and wealth were his rightful inheritance and that he was burdened with imposed duties toward his people.
   Jalal Talabani, the longtime leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), has been the main rival of Massoud for many years. Since the establishment of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in 1992, Barzani and Talabani have had a complex partner-rival relationship. At first, they seemed to work together closely, but from 1994 to 1998, the two fought a bitter civil war against each other. In September 1996, Barzani even allied briefly with the hated Saddam Hussein and then Turkey to stave off defeat at the hands of Talabani.
   In September 1998, however, the United States finally brokered a truce between the two contending Kurdish leaders. Since then, Bar-zani and Talabani have made impressive strides to achieve unity for the welfare of their people. In the fall of 2002, for example, the two were finally able to reunify the parliament of the KRG in order to better present their case for a federal Kurdish state in a post-Saddam Iraq. Barzani also repeatedly warned that the Iraqi Kurds would oppose any Turkish attempt to occupy Iraqi Kurdistan as part of an agreement with the United States to attack Iraq. When the U.S. attack came in March 2003, Barzani strongly threw his support to the United States and reaped rich rewards for his actions, as Kurdish help proved invaluable given Turkey's decision not to participate in the war.
   After the fall of Saddam Hussein, Massoud Barzani served on the Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) for the one year it served as Iraq's provisional government. The KRG parliament elected him president of the KRG on 12 June 2005, while his erstwhile rival Talabani assumed the more ceremonial position of president of Iraq. On 25 July 2009 Barzani was reelected president by almost 70 percent of the popular vote of some 2.5 million voters. As the president of the KRG, Barzani played an important role, traveling to meet with the leaders of the United States, Great Britain, Italy, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and the pope in the Vatican, among others. His relations with Turkey, however, have often remained acrimonious over such issues as the future of Kirkuk and the role of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) ensconced in the Kandil Mountains along the KRG/Iranian border. Although he is committed to a federal, democratic Iraq in the post-Saddam Hussein era, Barzani has also made it clear that he would strike for independence if the newly won Kurdish rights were compromised by a new Iraqi dictatorship.
   Barzani is fluent in Kurdish, Arabic, and Persian, while he understands English. He is married and has eight children. His eldest son, Masrour Barzani, heads Asayesh, the KRG (KDP) security and intelligence agency, and has become a political force in his own right.

Historical Dictionary of the Kurds. .

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