Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani is named president of Iraq, becoming the first non-Arab president of an Arab country. Veteran Middle East journalist Dilip Hiro talks about Talabani’s ties to the CIA, Iranian intelligence and Saddam Hussein
The Iraqi parliament also named outgoing finance minister Adel Abdel Mahdi and outgoing interim president Ghazi Yawar as the country’s two vice presidents. The three men will serve together on the presidency council. They are expected to name Shiite politician Ibrahim Jaafari to the powerful post of prime minister.
DILIP HIRO: [Talabani] has changed sides so often that I think it would be very boring for me to go through each twist and turn. There’s a very long entry on him in my book, The Essential Middle East: A Comprehensive Guide.
Finally, I notice that he is being described as a greater leader who fought Saddam Hussein. I can tell you, Amy, that after this 1991 Gulf War, when there were uprising of Kurds which was suppressed by Saddam’s regime, he then later on went to head a Kurdish delegation, and in June 1991, actually, they made a deal with Saddam Hussein, and I have a picture of him, Jalal Talabani, kissing the cheeks of Saddam Hussein. That picture appears in my book, Desert Shield, Desert Storm. Anybody can check it out. So, he is being described as a greater leader. Basically, he is, to put it simply, an opportunist.
AMY GOODMAN: Dilip Hiro, what about Jalal Talabani’s relationship with the C.I.A.?
DILIP HIRO: Well, of course, I have to say not only he has a relationship with the C.I.A., but also he has a relationship with the intelligence agency of Iran. You know, this is one of the amazing things, if you really go into this whole intelligence world, you will be dumbstruck to find these overlappings …
AMY GOODMAN: Sounds a little like Ahmed Chalabi.
DILIP HIRO: Absolutely. Except that Chalabi was never actually living — never lived in Iraq, … Talabani, as well as Barzani, they have been living in not what you may call proper Iraq, but in Iraqi Kurdistan, so in that sense they have more ground support, a proper constituency.
At the same time given this kind of location they have, as I said, you have to look at the map to see the southeastern Kurdistan is next to Iran. There’s no way you can operate in this part of the world without having some good relationship with Iran. And the other thing to remember, of course, all these guys now, of course, claim secularism, and they’re so much against Iranian mullahs, but remember in the 1980 to 1988 Iran-Iraq war, the Kurdistan — the Kurdish militia run both by Talabani and Barzani fought alongside the Iranians and against the Iraqi soldiers. [Y]ou could say that they committed, in quote, “treason” to be fighting their own national army, while — and working with the enemy. So I think they have such a long and checkered and opportunistic background. [O]thers point out he was a guerrilla leader, I mean, I find really hard to take in. Of course, the relationship with the intelligence agencies is all over the place [and] the one man who really comes out on top in that business who is right now technically the prime minister of Iraq is Iyad Allawi. He publicly said, I have saved money from twelve intelligence agencies. I think he should go down in the Guinness Book of Records.