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Masoud Barzani
President of Iraqi Kurdistan Masoud Barzani (cropped).jpg
Masoud Barzani in 2005
President of Kurdistan Region
In office
14 June 2005 – 1 November 2017
(Mandate expired on 19 August 2015)
Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani
Barham Salih
Nechirvan Barzani
Vice President Kosrat Rasul Ali
Preceded by Position established
Succeeded by Nechirvan Barzani
President of the Governing Council of Iraq
In office
1 April 2004 – 30 April 2004
Leader Paul Bremer
Preceded by Mohammad Bahr al-Ulloum
Succeeded by Ezzedine Salim
Personal details
Born 16 August 1946 (1946-08-16) (age 75)
Republic of Mahabad
(now Mahabad, Iran)
Citizenship Iraq
Nationality Kurdish
Political party Flag of KDP.pngKurdistan Democratic Party
مسعوود بارزانی
Masoud Barzani

Masoud Barzani (Kurdish: ,مه‌سعوود بارزانی Mesûd Barzanî; born 16 August 1946) is a Kurdish politician who has been leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) since 1979, and was President of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq from 2005 to 2017. Barzani was born in the self-declared Republic of Mahabad, and succeeded his father Mustafa Barzani as leader of the KDP in 1979.

Working closely with his brother Idris Barzani until Idris's death, Barzani and various other Kurdish groups fought with Iran against the Iraqi military during the Iran–Iraq War. Barzani has played a key role in the development of the Kurdistan Region polity since the Gulf War.

President of Kurdistan Region

Massoud Barzani & Abd al-Karim Qasim
A young Massoud Barzani with Iraqi Prime Minister Abd al-Karim Qasim

A major result of Saddam Hussein's defeat in the Gulf War (1991) and Operation Provide Comfort was the ultimate establishment of Kurdish control over their traditional homeland in northern Iraq, known as Iraqi Kurdistan and "South Kurdistan". Just a few months after the creation of the autonomous zone, free elections (a first in Iraq) were held in 1992. The two main Kurdish parties, namely Barzani's KDP and the Jalal Talabani-led Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), split the vote, and subsequently split the government ministries evenly. In May 1994, however, fighting broke out between the Peshmerga of the PUK and of the KDP. On August 31, 1996 Barzani called on the assistance of Saddam Hussein's regime to help him combat the PUK, which was receiving Iranian assistance. With the aid of the Iraqi army, the KDP drove the PUK from Iraqi Kurdistan's major cities. The PUK eventually regrouped and retook Suleimani and parts of Hawler province. An end to the civil war was brokered in 1998 in the Washington Peace Accords, leaving the Kurdish zone divided between the KDP in the Northwest and PUK in the Southeast. After the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the KDP and PUK gradually established a unified regional government. Barzani became a member of the Iraqi Governing Council and was the president of the council in April 2004. He was elected as the President of Iraqi Kurdistan by the Parliament of Iraqi Kurdistan in June 2005.

President George W. Bush talks to reporters as he welcomes Masoud Barzani to the Oval Office at the White House, Tuesday, 25 October 2005

As President of the Kurdistan Region, Barzani has made official visits to several countries and met dignitaries of the likes of US President George W. Bush, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, the Pope at the Vatican, the Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in Rome and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in Riyadh.

In July 2009, in the first direct elections for the presidency of the autonomous Kurdistan Region, Masoud Barzani was reelected as president by a popular ballot, receiving 69.6% of the votes. The elections were closely monitored by international observers and the Iraqi Electoral Commission. In August 2013, after the expiration of his 8-year term, the parliament extended his presidency for another two years, and he continued in the role even beyond this extension.

Masoud Barzani was one of the eight candidates shortlisted in the Time magazine's 2014 Person of the Year, for his efforts to push for Kurdish independence with the ongoing fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

2017 independence referendum

Secretary Pompeo Meets Prime Minister-Designate Masoud Barzani (32805580838)
Baranzi meets with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in January 2019

On 7 June 2017, Barzani had announced that Kurdistan Region would hold an independence referendum on 25 September 2017. On the day following the referendum, 26 September 2017, he announced that the referendum had been a success in seeking independence, and called on neighboring countries to be open to future dialogue.

The Iraqi government rejected the results of the referendum. On 15 October, units of the Iraqi security forces and Popular Mobilization Forces, entered the Kurdish-held city of Kirkuk, forcing a withdrawal of the Peshmerga and prompting similar withdrawals across other contested cities in northern Iraq.

Following the failure of the referendum and the Peshmerga's territorial losses, Barzani announced on 29 October that he would step down as the President of Kurdistan Region.

He is still the president of the KDP and receives Ambassadors.

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