Commentary Magazine


Obama’s Biggest Accomplishment in the Middle East?

Well done, President Obama. As one NGO head, writing from Kurdistan notes on Facebook, you have now managed to turn the Kurds, arguably the most pro-American people in the Middle East against you. You have given the region’s increasingly Baath-like leadership carte blanche to shoot, beat up, and detain peaceful protestors in the two months since protests erupted after a surrogate of regional leader Masud Barzani opened fire from a window on students protesting corruption. You applaud as Syria lifts its emergency laws, but you remain silent when the dictatorship in Iraqi Kurdistan bans protests first in Erbil, and now in Sulaymani. Shwan Zulal, whom I do not know, has been doing yeoman’s work blogging from the thick of the fight.

With change in Tunisia and Egypt, and the promise of better things to come in Yemen, Libya, and Syria, it will be truly ironic if Iraqi Kurdistan, once an example of democracy’s potential, becomes its problem child as Masud Barzani drives the region firmly into the past.

The latest rumors suggest that regional Prime Minister Barham Salih, a friend of many in Washington, may resign. Let’s hope so. He has had little power to affect change in Iraqi Kurdistan, but has done tremendous damage to democracy by allowing himself to be used as cover for more regressive forces.