Iraqi Kurdish President Massoud Barzani is to step down, just weeks after a referendum on Kurdish independence that he orchestrated backfired. Lucy Fielder reports.
Iraqi Kurdish President Massoud Barzani is to step down. Just weeks after a referendum on Kurdish independence - which he orchestrated - backfired, throwing the region into turmoil. Barzani's mandate was due to end next week, but he confirmed on Sunday that he would not seek to extend it. Elections set for November first have been delayed for eight months. Iraqi Kurds voted overwhemingly to break away from Iraq in the September referendum. But Baghdad opposed the vote and retaliated with a military offensive that has left Kurdish autonomy in tatters. Iraqi forces took control of the oil-rich northern city of Kirkuk: to the Kurds, both a spiritual homeland and a crucial source of revenue. Barzani has had a storied career. He fought with the Kurdish Peshmerga for decades. And was an architect of the autonomous Kurdish state carved out after Saddam Hussein was toppled in 2003. Earlier this year, Barzani said he wouldn't stand for another presidential term. But until the referendum debacle, few people believed him. He leaves the Kurds - who had been enjoying unprecedented autonomy - with a bleak outlook, the balance of power in their northern region transformed.