Widening divide between Kurdistan’s ruling parties raises new risks

Leaders are openly discussing the dissolution of a strategic agreement for united governance that has underpinned Kurdistan's stability and oil sector independence.
KRG Prime Minister Masrur Barzani of the KDP and Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani of the PUK (background) lead a Cabinet meeting on Jan. 19, 2022. (Photo credit: KRG)

SULAIMANIYA/ERBIL - Relations between Iraqi Kurdistan’s two main ruling parties are further deteriorating, posing a major challenge to effective governance of the semi-autonomous region, weakening Kurdish bargaining power in Baghdad, and delaying the development of natural gas resources.

The conflict is so bad that PUK leader Bafel Talabani is openly questioning the viability of maintaining a unified regional government, instead floating the idea of reverting back to the days of "dual administration" — when the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) controlled Dohuk and Erbil provinces, and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) controlled Sulaimaniya, as disconnected government entities.

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