Money to Burn in Iraq

by Michael Rubin

Lvin magazine, an independent Kurdish publication whose journalists have been harassed, detained, and in one case killed by Iraqi Kurdish security forces, recently published the salaries of Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan’s leaders.

If true, the number are disturbing: Iraqi President Jalal Talabani pulls down a salary of approximately $12 million per year, and that doesn’t include the money that is channeled through the Nokan Corporation, the company that handles his party’s business interests. Masud Barzani, president of Iraqi Kurdistan — which comprises Iraq’s three northern provinces — pulls in a salary of approximately $400,000 per month, and that doesn’t include his extensive business holdings, the mountaintop resort he confiscated as a family compound, the public money he has absorbed from the treasury, or payments he receives from some neighboring states.

Such salaries, of course, dwarf President Obama’s. And pensions are huge and paid in perpetuity. Kurds talk about one case a couple years ago, in which the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan’s prime minister appointed a relative to a ministry for about a day — so the relative would draw a full pension for life.

When the Iraqi and Iraqi Kurdish governments spend such vast sums on themselves, it certainly raises question about Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan’s priorities and their need for U.S. financial assistance at a time when taxpayers are already suffocating.

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