ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – There is no military solution to the escalating tensions between the Kurdistan Region and Iraq in the aftermath of the Region's referendum on independence, according to a retired four-star United States Army General.
Speaking to Kurdistan 24, Ret. US Army General Ronald Griffith said the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the central government of Iraq are experiencing a challenging period that needs to be worked out “delicately.”
“I think right now, it is a tenuous period,” he said. “I think it’s got to be worked delicately.”
Griffith, who served as the Vice Chief of Staff of the US Army during his career, was referring to tensions between the KRG and the Federal Government of Iraq, which have increased following Kurdistan’s Sep. 25 independence vote.
“I think that cooperation with the partners in the region is going to be important as you move hopefully toward the goal that [is] being sought by the Kurdish people in Iraq of an independent Kurdish region,” the retired US Army General continued.
While the Kurdish leadership has repeatedly called for dialogue to resolve the disputes, Baghdad has responded with sanctions on the Region, including a flight ban, and threats of military action.
On Wednesday, the Region’s Security Council warned of a possible attack on Kurdistan by Iraqi and Iranian-backed paramilitary forces who remain stationed in Kirkuk following the defeat of the Islamic State (IS) in Hawija.
Peshmerga forces early Thursday morning blocked the main roads connecting the northern Iraqi city of Mosul to the Kurdistan Region for six hours before reopening them.
Later, however, during a meeting with officials in Baghdad, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Iraq would not use its army “against our people or fight a war against our Kurdish citizens.”
Griffith said he supported the Kurdish struggle for independence but noted the importance of “building friendships and relationships of trust and confidence with the neighbors in the region.”
“In my view, there is no military solution to the situation right now,” he affirmed.
“I think it is a time where we need to move very wisely and with commitment in working the diplomatic issues in the region,” Griffith added.
The former US Army General also mentioned his admiration for the Kurdish Peshmerga forces who he commended for their valiant efforts in the ongoing war against IS.
“I am a great admirer of the Kurdish people, a great admirer of the bravery of the Peshmerga soldiers,” he concluded.
The Kurdish leadership on Wednesday urged the international community and US-led coalition to put an end to Iraq’s collective punishment and use of force approach, “which benefits no one.”
Editing by G.H. Renaud
(Kurdistan 24 team in Washington, DC conducted the interview)