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Shafaq News/ Perhaps it is just a coincidence that some of the most prominent political figures in Iraq and Kurdistan have taken the helm relatively simultaneously, emerging from high-level security backgrounds and qualifications, during which theyplayed extremely sensitive roles.
This raises many legitimate questions about whether it is the security-intelligence expertise opens the doors of the high profile political figures club; Or is it the complicated crises that forced security men to rise into the political arena as an inevitable option?
Security men acclaiming sensitive positions are acquainted with the management of sensitive issues from behind the scenes. This renders them capable accumulating true knowledge about the physiology of the decision making bodies, and utilizing this knowledge in processing files and dismantling political and security mines, all from behind the scenes.
To put in other words, both Al-Kadhimi and Barzani cumulative experiences in approaching issues referred to them and the subtle results, apparently, left a mark in the decision-making bodies; taking into consideration, that the rise of Al-Kadhimi and Barzani from the intelligence and security departments to the political scene was generally preceded by political, economic and security turmoil, especially in the central capital, Baghdad.
At relatively young age, both men have gained experience through contact with centers of external, international and regional powers; from Washington to London, Riyadh, Tehran, Ankara and others. Over all, the billion-dollar question is, how will they perform in the mazes of politics?
At the age of 50, Al-Kadhimi headed the Iraqi National Intelligence Service then took over the prime ministry in May 2020. According to observers, he emerged from outside the traditional status quo, but not entirely detached from it.
His four-year intelligence career granted him access to the backstage of the Iraqi political scene and has enabled him to forge close relationships with many Iraqi political figures. He led the intelligence against the threats of ISIS, coordinating with various security and military sectors, as well as channeling -through communication and coordination- with leaders of various security services in the region and the world;including the Americans, Iranians, Turks, Saudis, Syrians and British, whether they are part of the global coalition or not.
The national intelligence work requires open channels with internal and external powers, as long as this achieves the interests of national security and enhances the elements of superiority over terrorism,which occupied large areas in Iraq, Kurdistan, Syria, and Lebanon.
Although he had no political history, Al-Kadhimi’s years of service in the intelligence sharpened his negotiation skills and nourished his extensive network of relationships - away from the spotlight - with dozens of states and security agencies.
This explains his reputation as pragmatist who lays undue emphasis on moderation and avoids antagonism. Perhaps these qualities cracked the codes of the long-awaited government earlier, after his predecessor Adel Abdul-Mahdi in late 2019, along with two other candidates, to acclaim the trust of the political force, until al-Kadhimi's name was forwarded as a consensus candidate.
However, Al-Kadhimi will have to overcome heavy challenges. The economic crises due to the collapse of oil prices globally and balancing the delicate relationship with the U.S. and Iran, as well as walking on the sharp edge of political cleft in Baghdad, all of which require a poised man with exceptional leadership talents.
Barzani's milieu is quite distinguished from Al-Kadhimi's; as Barzani's experience in politics cedes that of the current prime minister of Iraq. However, they both share the anonymous security background.
He has been a member of the Central Committee of Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) since 1998. However, his major security experience originatesfrom his time as a director-general of the security and Intelligence Agency during the tension between the KDP and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) andthe post-Kurdish uprising in 1991 era against Saddam Hussein after the first Gulf War.
However, his biggest security challenges came later. Specifically, after the US-led invasion to Iraq in 2003 that tumbled saddam Houssain; an era marked with risks, opportunities and chaos for both Iraq and Kurdistan. Barzani’s security activity rose to a different level, when the former President of Kurdistan Masoud Barzani assigned Masrour a chairman of the national security council of Kurdistan to supervise various security and military intelligence services in 2012.
At the National Security Council’s announcement ceremony, Masrour Barzani stated, "The establishment of this council is a step towards eliminating the influences of the two administrations (al-Sulaymaniyah and Erbil’s administrations), a step to unify the capabilities of the nation Kurdistan to protect the citizens' properties and confront any threat to Kurdistan's security and stability".
This now may seem a preview of Kurdistan's internal view, as the National Security Council quickly annexed the Asayish (intelligence agency), the General Directorate of Military Intelligence and the Territory's security and Information Agency.
On the same occasion, President Masoud Barzani said at the occasion, "the National Security Council belongs to all the people of Kurdistan; not to a party or entity".
The formation of the Council and the statements of President Barzani reflected the desire to fortify the security as a port to attract investments andultimately enhance the economy in Kurdistan.
Masrour Barzani later introduced himself as a prominent player in the international coalition against ISIS. The National Security Council, which he heads, played various military and security roles, inside Kurdistan, Iraq and across the border in Syria against ISIS terrorists; particularly by the anti-terrorism units of the National Council, sometimes in cooperation with U.S. forces.
This security role certainly pushed Masrour to unprecedented limits for him, and spurred him to decipher the codes and extend outreaches with security, military and political leaders in Kurdistan, Iraq and the regional environment.
These accumulated experiences appear to have encouraged KDP to nominate Masrour Barzani for the prime ministry of Kurdistan’s government in December 2018.
Despite being on the head of the government, certaindevelopments sometimes forced him to summon his former security character, in order to address a range of risks or settle conflicts in the relationship with Baghdad, through his familiar security channels. Barzani's phantom will be present in the "strategic dialogue" between U.S and Iraq as this dialogue forces his way to Kurdistan's priority list; including concerns in security, military, and economy.
Infact, security men serving in authority positions is not unprecedented deed. Globally, there are many presidents who formerly served in security sector:
-Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s current president, served as secretary of the Supreme National Security Council for 16 years. He began his career in the Council during President Hashemi Rafsanjani’s era and continued under his successor, President Khatami.
- Russia’s President Vladimir Putin came to the Kremlin from the intelligence agency (formerly KGB) and set an example of salvation for the Russians in the post-President Boris Yeltsin era.
-The Prime Minister of Montenegro, DaskoMarkovic, was the head of the former intelligence service.
-Yevgeny Primakov, who served as head of the Russian government between 1998 and 1999, served earlier as the head of the foreign intelligence service of KGB agency in 1991; a very sensitive position back then as it came in the post-Soviet era.
-As an Arabic example, former Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz (who was exempted from his position in July 2017). He rose to the post of the crown prince, after years of intensive work in the powerful ministry of interior. This enhanced his figure in political scene and opened the doors of the crown matrimonial before him in 2015.[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]