WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) – Fuad Hussein is “the best candidate” to become the next President of Iraq, former French Foreign Minister, Bernard Kouchner, told Kurdistan 24 last week as he visited Erbil.
Kouchner was discussing the current Kurdish political scene with our reporter when Kouchner chided him, “You didn’t ask me about my favorite.”
“I can tell you. I have the experience of 45 years being with the Kurds,” the former French minister said. “And I’ve always been on Fuad Hussein’s side. He’s a very clever man,” and he knows very well “the international world.”
“He’s very loyal to Kurdistan, to the Kurdish people, all of them,” Kouchner stated.
Speaking of the rival candidate, Barham Salih, Kouchner noted that Salih had been Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government, “but this is not the same experience” in terms of gravity and wisdom.
Hussein is the candidate of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), led by Masoud Barzani, which won 25 parliamentary seats in the recent Iraqi elections, the most of any Kurdish party.
Salih split from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), of which he was a long-time member, and ran as the head of his own, ostensibly reformist, party, the Coalition for Democracy and Justice (CDJ.)
The CDJ, however, garnered only two seats in the elections. So Salih reconciled with the PUK and became its candidate for president.
Since the 2003 overthrow of Saddam Hussein, a Kurd has held the position of Iraq’s President. Salih has rejected Masoud Barzani’s call for a unified Kurdish position on a presidential candidate.
Rather, Salih maintains that the Iraqi parliament should decide. As Iraq’s majority Shia Arabs hold the largest number of parliamentary seats, they might, conceivably, chose a figure who did not do well in the elections, including among his own electorate.
Now 78 years old, Kouchner has had a long, distinguished, and multi-faceted career. He originally trained as a physician, founded Doctors without Borders (Medicins sans Frontiers), and then, as a French political figure, advocated vigorously to promote international acceptance of a doctrine of humanitarian intervention.
In 1991, Kouchner was Minister for Humanitarian Action in the government of French President Francois Mitterrand and had the opportunity to put that doctrine into practice.
In March 1991, when US President George H.W. Bush ended the Gulf War with Saddam in power and then turned a blind eye as Saddam crushed the post-war rebellions that Bush, himself, had called for, Kouchner was a major figure in getting him to reverse that decision.
Operation Provide Comfort followed and helped to bring down from the mountains the hundreds of thousands of people who had fled there, fearing an Iraqi chemical assault (the US investigation after the second war discovered that Saddam had used chemical weapons against the uprising in the south.)
Prior to last year’s independence referendum in the Kurdistan Region, Kouchner supported holding the vote, without postponement. As he stated then, “It is their right of self-determination.”
A year later, Kouchner still held that view, telling Kurdistan 24 that it was “normal” for a people to seek their independence. He also emphasized that the people had “voted in favor of independence, very clearly”—by over 92 percent.
“This is the history,” he affirmed.
Kouchner had particularly strong words about Iran. It is a “theocracy,” but in a democratic state, “there must be no relationship between religion and government.”
Religion belongs in “a church or a mosque,” but the government must be separate.
“For me, this is absolutely determinant,” Kouchner affirmed.
Editing by Nadia Riva