ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – Former Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani on Tuesday stated that he doubts there is even a relationship between the Kurdistan Region and the White House.
“The referendum has secured the future of the Kurdish people. It’s true that there have been some obstacles, post-referendum, but it doesn’t mean the determination of the Kurdish people is lost,” Barzani said in an interview with Newsweek.
He argued that the timing of the Sep. 25 referendum on independence in the Kurdistan Region was appropriate since the winding down of the fight against the Islamic State (IS) held in store yet another struggle for the people of Kurdistan.
“Those Iraqi forces who are currently implementing their policies to change the demography and situation in areas that they are in right now, they had this program and this plan in mind even before the referendum. They are using the referendum as a pretext to cover their plan and plot against the Kurdish people.”
The Kurdish leader reminded that Iraqi Forces would not have been able to defeat the jihadist group nor liberate Mosul without the help of the Peshmerga Forces.
“But we were not expecting to see Iraqi forces use weapons—that were given to them by the US to fight [IS]—against their own citizens. It was a big surprise for us.”
Barzani also denounced the US for approving the Oct. 16 military plan for Iraqi Forces and Iranian-backed Shia Hashd al-Shaabi militias to gain control of Kirkuk.
“The operation to take over Kirkuk was led by the Iranians with the knowledge of the US and British officials,” he added.
Recently, Senator John McCain, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services described the Kurds as “longstanding and valuable partner” of the US. Barzani commended him but expressed his doubts regarding the existence of a partnership between Erbil and Washington DC.
“John McCain is a very respected and very knowledgeable man, who is aware of the sacrifices of the Peshmerga and the Kurdish people. But with regards to the relationship between Kurdistan and the White House...I can’t say whether we have a relationship or not.”
A similar sentiment extends toward Baghdad, as Barzani claimed the Iraqi decision-making process is in the hands of Tehran. “The Kurds are not going to confront the Iranians nor compete with Iran.”
Asked about working with Iran, Barzani said, “it will be decided in the future.”
He noted that the people of the Kurdistan Region do not want war and bloodshed but simply seek dialogue with Baghdad to resolve their disputes peacefully.
“If the international community and the coalition genuinely want to prevent another armed conflict, they can. But if a battle erupts, it means they gave it the green light,” the Kurdish leader asserted.
He expressed his concern regarding the recent situation in Kirkuk and other disputed territories currently being controlled by the Iraqi forces and militias, reaffirming that the identity of those areas, however, will remain Kurdistani.
“What’s going on in [Kurdish territories] is just temporary because nobody can change the identity of those areas. We are not going to recognize any forced demographic change,” he continued.
The Kurdistan Region is no stranger to forced displacements and relocations at the hands of Baghdad, as it suffered through such campaigns under the former regime.
“The identities of these areas are still Kurdish. We withdrew from many of the areas so as to prevent any kind of conflict and bloodshed. We wanted to prevent any kind of military confrontation to pave the way for dialogue.”
Ties between Erbil and Baghdad have considerably deteriorated following the Kurdistan Region’s Sep. 25 independence referendum, which the central government labeled unconstitutional and illegal.
Editing by Nadia Riva