Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani has given a frank and wide-ranging interview to an Arabic-language newspaper. Others topics: UAE weddings and the failure of the Muslim Brotherhood in power.
Iraqi Kurdistan leader speaks of success
Iraqi Kurdistan leader speaks about his region's success, independence and ties with Baghdad
Not too long ago, Kurds in the autonomous territory known as Iraqi Kurdistan knew Nechirvan Barzani as their prime minister, and that was how they addressed him and referred to him in their conversations. But, in what is becoming a trend, more Kurds now refer to him fondly as "Kaka Nechir", meaning "Brother Nechirvan".
According to the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al Awsat, which carried a full-page interview with Mr Barzani yesterday, he earned that title thanks to the urban, economic and industrial leaps that Iraqi Kurds have made so far under his leadership.
"It is an honour to be responsible for providing part of these services," Mr Barzani, 46, said during the interview. "But these achievements have been a result of a group effort from the Patriotic Union [of Kurdistan] and the [Kurdistan] Democratic Party, and from all those who have devoted themselves to making this progress happen."
"Kaka Nechir", who is the nephew of Iraqi Kurdistan president Massoud Barzani, told Asharq Al Awsat that the Kurdish government thinks about the development and future of Baghdad, the federal capital of Iraq, just as much as it does about Erbil, the flourishing capital of Iraqi Kurdistan.
But the struggling central government in Baghdad, under Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki, has not rid itself of its "domination" mentality, Mr Barzani said.
"Unfortunately, the politics of [Mr Al Maliki] and other Baghdad officials is not the politics of mutual understanding. It is the politics of domination and hegemony, which is unacceptable for us, and which is against the constitution," he said.
Asked whether Iraqi Kurdistan, given its ample resources and remarkable success, is considering independence from Iraq, Mr Barzani replied: "We have been independent, before 2003. We already had a government and public institutions and our currency was different from the one used in the rest of Iraq at the time. But after the fall of the regime [of Saddam Hussein], we wanted to go back together with Baghdad, on the basis of the constitution that 80 per cent of Iraqis voted for."
Mr Barzani continued: "I will be honest with you - we are not Arabs, we are Kurds. Our culture, language and history are different from the Arab world; we are a Kurdish nation, but we have chosen to stay within a unified Iraq … and we see that it is in the Kurdish interest that we stay as part of one Iraq."
Mr Barzani noted that Mr Al Maliki is unlikely to be intent on pushing the Kurds to proclaim their complete independence as a nation.
The problem, rather, has to do with management and leadership, he suggested. "Otherwise, how would you explain [Mr Al Maliki's] problems with the Sunnis?"
Attitudes are changing about lavish weddings
"Any observer of UAE society and the changes that it has been going through will highlight 2013 as the year that ushered in a crucial change in community attitudes towards an authentic Emirati tradition: weddings," wrote Mohammed Al Hammadi, editor of Abu Dhabi-based newspaper Al Ittihad.
In a column entitled The UAE's 'sustainable' weddings, the editor said that the evolution of the UAE lifestyle had set the cost of wedding celebrations on fire, with jubilant families spending exorbitant amounts or getting into debt to honour the big day.
But this is changing, with the UAE's sheikhs setting an example in the rationalisation of wedding expenditure, the editor noted.
"For instance, the wedding of Sheikh Dhiyab, the son of General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, was celebrated as part of a group wedding … including 70 other young Emirati men from various emirates."
The reception was "excess-free"; it comprised Arabic coffee, tea, cookies, nuts, dates and soft drinks. The guests enjoyed a performance of traditional music and dance, and the whole event lasted only from the afternoon to sunset.
"This is the new look of the UAE wedding," the editor said in conclusion. Over-the-top buffets with much waste will hopefully become a thing of the past.
Brothers' veneer has come off in power
"The story of the Muslim Brotherhood's relationship with power is kind of funny and bizarre: after years of toiling to lay their hands on the ruler's seat, they were so quickly burnt to dust by it," wrote Amina Abu Chihab, a contributor to the Sharjah-based newspaper Al Khaleej.
In Egypt, the Brotherhood gained the sympathy and respect of the grassroots public long before the Arab Spring, through small-scale but effective charity programmes, sugar-coated with their famous slogan "Islam is the answer", the writer said.
So, as the Arab Spring started bringing down the despots of North Africa, it became clear that the Brotherhood would emerge more powerful than ever, with vast segments of society ready to vote for them, assuming that they had a social, economic and political programme for the nation.
But that veneer of managerial skill and good organisation was cracked when the Brotherhood was suddenly confronted with the myriad challenges that come with holding the reins of power.
"The image that they have long held up to the public has faded, giving way to a clownish, laughable portrait," the writer said.
"No ruler of Egypt has ever been such a punching bag for satirists … as President [Mohammed] Morsi and his Brotherhood are now."
* Digest compiled by Achraf El Bahi