Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government — already racked by an oil corruption scandal involving Norwegian officials’ exposure of an apparent kickback scheme, is now facing a renewed crackdown on press freedom after an independent newspaper raised questions about Pres. Masud Barzani’s budget and salary. Barzani’s temper tantrum comes after an armed attack on a journalist’s vehicle in the city of Sulaymani, which was once considered one of the safer cities in Iraq.
Qubad Talabani, the Kurds’ representative in Washington, has said that reform is the number-one priority after this summer’s elections. Amidst a backdrop of widespread election fraud and Qubad’s false statements about the composition of international observation teams, the opposition won not only in Sulaymaniyah, but also in Jalal Talabani’s home town of Kuysanjaq. By partnering with the Barzanis, however, Talabani’s party was able to keep its voice. They then proceeded to shut out the opposition from the cabinet. Now, as the Kurdish government acccelerates its free-speech crackdown, it seems that promises of reform were for the gullible only. The Kurds describe themselves as “The Other Iraq.” Increasingly, it seems their motto should be: “Kurdistan: The Old Iraq.”