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Masoud Barzani
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    (August 16, 1946- )
    Born in Mahabad, Iran
    Son of Kurdish nationalist leader Mustafa Barzani
    Succeeded his father as leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP; 1979)
    Elected President of Iraqi Kurdistan (June 14, 2005)
    He launched an internal war against rival Jalal Talabani and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and called on long-time enemy Saddam Hussein for assistance (1994-98).
    He has appointed a lot of relatives to government offices, including a son as intelligence director, a nephew as prime minister and an uncle as finance minister.
    Journalists who criticize him or his family have a tendency to get arrested, get killed, or disappear.
    He is constitutionally limited to two terms, but got around that by having Parliament extend his second term by two years (2013).
    He used the Islamic State attack on Iraq as a pretext to seize the city of Kirkuk and other disputed territories for Kurdistan (2014).
    He survived an assassination attempt in Vienna, Austria (1979).
    Over the years, he lost 37 family members in Iraqi attacks against Kurdistan.
    He managed an astute political balancing act during the drafting of Iraq's new constitution (2005), keeping Kurdistan within the nation while laying much of the groundwork for a separate state.
    He was described by 'Time' as the 'most reliable U.S. ally in its campaign against ISIS.'

Credit: C. Fishel

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