Talabani was politically active from a young age, joining
Mustafa Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) as a teenager, but later
split from Barzani and co-founded the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) party
in 1975. He warred against the Iraqi government as a guerrilla fighter in the
1960s, with the hope that the fighting would culminate in an independent
Kurdish state. In the 1990s, in light of Saddam's gruesome massacre of the
Kurds during the Gulf War and their further suppression after the war's conclusion,
the United States and its allies established a no-fly zone over the northern
Kurdish region of Iraq to provide them with refuge. Ruled by a fragile
coalition of Talabani and Barzani's son and successor, Masoud, the territory
was plunged into infighting and several years of a KDP-PUK civil war until a
Once Talabani assumed the Iraqi presidency, the onetime rebel
took the role of a conciliatory elder statesman who cast aside his zest for
Kurdish independence for the sake of the country's stability. Though his office
was largely ceremonial, his shrewd negotiating ability was seen as crucial in
attempts at easing strife between Iraq's numerous feuding factions.
Acknowledging Talabani's willingness to cooperate with nearly anyone, Iraqi
politician Mowaffak al-Rubaie said that "there are no permanent enemies for
him, but there are permanent friends."
The corpulent Talabani enjoyed hearty meals and smoking
cigars, making health problems an inevitability. He suffered a stroke in late
2012 that sidelined him politically and further added to the chaos in Iraq, amid
sectarian strife and ISIS advancements. Talabani lingered on for several years,
dying of a second stroke in late 2017.
I, TJS, included Talabani on my first AODP list following the
2012 stroke, and hung onto him since, as I rarely drop survivors. Hulka and I receive
8 points each (5 for age + 3 for duet).