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Two leading Iraqi Kurdish parties are taken off US terrorism list

The parties had been placed on the list in 2001 under the Patriot Act
Kurdish supporters of Massoud Barzani wave the KDP party flag during celebrations in the streets of Arbil (AFP)

Two leading parties in the Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) were removed from the US terrorist list late on Friday. 

Brett McGurk, the US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iraq and Syria, confirmed on his Twitter account on Saturday that the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) had been removed. 

“Congress has passed the NDAA [The National Defense Authorisation Act] w/a provision removing PUK & KDP from the list of designated organisations under US immigration laws”, wrote McGurk.

“This unfair designation complicated visa processing for many Kurds wishing to visit the US. We are pleased to see it fixed,” the US official added. 

The KDP and PUK were placed on the terrorist list in 2001, under the Patriot Act, and listed as Tier III terrorist groups.

They remained on the list in spite of being staunch allies of the US throughout the 2003 invasion of Iraq and subsequently after the establishment of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). 

In February, KRG (and KDP leader) President Massoud Barzani refused to meet with US President Barack Obama in the US until he removed the two parties from the terrorist list, saying in a letter that he did "not care if I became embarrassed in front of you, it is important not ashamed and embarrassed in front of my people."

US Sentators Robert Menendez and John McCain introduced a bill in April to strike the Kurdish parties from the US terrorist list.

At the time McCain argued that keeping on the list would "betray our friends and allies of the Kurds, who were a stabilising force in the region for years."

Fuad Hussein, KRG Chief of Staff to the Presidency, said that US officials had informed their Kurdish counterparts about the Congress decision.

Anadolu Agency quoted Hussein as saying that “the bill is now sent to President Barack Obama. We hope that he will sign it.”

The KDP was first formed in 1946 and has been Iraq’s most prominent Kurdish political party, operating a ‘big tent’ political policy encompassing nationalists, liberals and conservatives.

The PUK, founded in 1975, has historically been seen as left-of-centre and has clashed with the KDP both politically and physically.

A State Department cable from 2009 released by Wikileaks claimed that “the KDP consists of family clans, operating very much like a mafia organisation.”

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