Atheel al-Nujaifi was born in 1958 and was the governor of Nineveh province from 2009-2015. Photo: Rudaw TV
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — The former governor of Nineveh Atheel al-Nujaifi believes Kurds need to return to Baghdad and play an active role, both to strengthen the Kurdistan Region and to prevent a total Shiite takeover in Baghdad.
"I also believe there will be new horizons in the nature of the relation between the Kurdistan Region and Baghdad, and also the international relations," Nujaifi, an influential Sunni politician said on Friday.
He expressed that Nechirvan Barzani would make a good replacement for Masoud Barzani as president of the Kurdistan Region because he can build relations internally and externally.
"It is known that Mr. Nechirvan has great political flexibility," said Nujaifi, adding that Nechirvan Barzani has good relations with all politicians in Baghdad.
The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) this week that it would nominate incumbent KRG PM Nechirvan Barzani to the now suspended presidency of the Kurdistan Region and Masrour Barzani to the position of prime minister.
Nechirvan Barzani is perceived by Nujaifi as flexible because the KDP was not "involving" him in previous disputes and rivalries with Baghdad.
"He doesn't have problems or rivalry with any political side. This in turn opens the door for positive relations easily with Baghdad," Nujaifi asserted.
The Kurdistan Region needs a new "form" of relations with Baghdad, Nujaifi argued. From 2003 until the 2017 referendum, the Kurdistan Region was mostly concerned with internal matters and not active in Baghdad, claimed Nujaifi.
"I believe that after the referendum, the Kurdistan Region needs to return to playing a role in Baghdad, to be part of the formation of the Iraqi state, and to move through the capital, not only through Erbil alone," al-Nujaifi added.
Fractures in Sunni leadership and a marginalized electorate have weakened their political hand in Baghdad.
"This is an important role, now the power of the Kurdistan Region doesn't stem from Erbil alone, but from its position in Baghdad," Nujaifi claimed.
Working with the leaders in Baghdad and exerting influence over the central government "strengthens" the Kurdistan Region and the rest of Iraq, prevents hardline Shiites seizing power completely, argued Nujaifi.
He claimed that a handful of Shiite politicians first marginalized Sunnis, then the Kurds, and now even marginalizing other Shiites.
Nujaifi is referring to the pro-Iran bloc led by Hadi al-Amiri. The group is opposed to Muqtada al-Sadr’s bloc and has made many recent decisions, thus being the real kingmaker. However, recently the Sadrists have shown resistance.
For that to happen, the Kurds have to ally themselves with the "moderate Shiites" and the Sunnis, and refrain from trusting the "extremist Shiites.”
Iranian "hegemony" is gradually increasing in Iraq, and it has to be "disrupted,” added Nujaifi.
Relations between the Barzani family and Shiite leaders in southern Iraq go back decades when both were in opposition to previous governments in Baghdad.
New Iraqi PM Adil Abdul-Mahdi has been unable to fill eight vacant ministerial positions — notably interior and defense — because of Shiite-Shiite and Sunni-Sunni political party infighting. The KDP, as a single party, won more seats in the Iraqi election than any other party.