ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The representative of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Washington said on Wednesday that the visit of a US delegation headed by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Iraq earlier that day was an indicator of "support" for both the Kurdistan Region and Iraq in general.
Pompeo began his unannounced trip by landing in Baghdad to meet with the country's top officials. He later moved northward to Erbil where he spoke with senior Kurdish leaders there.
During his meetings, Pompeo reaffirmed the withdrawal of US troops from Syria, expressed continued support for the anti-Islamic State (IS) campaign to ensure their "lasting defeat throughout the region" after the terrorist group's "territorial" collapse.
In an interview with Kurdistan 24 in Erbil, the KRG envoy to the US, Bayan Sami Abdul-Rahman, said that the "important" visit comes at a time when "Iraq and Kurdistan are entering a new stage." This, she explained, was characterized by the end of the "frontline war" with the Islamic State (IS) and new administrations in Baghdad and Erbil.
This timing, she said, coupled with US statements of "support" for and "continued partnership" with the Kurdistan Region expressed during the two meetings with Pompeo she attended, "are all reflecting a positive situation."
Abdul-Rahman added that Pompeo was interested in the Kurdish perspective on the status of Erbil-Baghdad relations, which have substantially recovered from a near-total breakdown in late-2017, following the Kurdistan Region's independence referendum.
In a harsh retaliation to the vote, Iraqi security forces and Iranian-backed Hashd al-Shaabi militias attacked areas disputed between the two administrations, pushing out Peshmerga forces. Iraq later imposed punitive measures on the Kurdistan Region that included an international travel ban.
"America is always interested in the relationship between Erbil and Baghdad and I think they are also cautiously optimistic," she added.
Pompeo's visit to Iraq is part of a tour of the Middle East, two months after President Trump imposed the second round of sanctions on Iran. The Secretary of State has said he aims to rally Arab states to counter Tehran's expanding Middle Eastern influence in recent years, namely in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.
According to Abdul-Rahman, since the Kurdistan Region does not trade goods with Iran that are impacted by the US sanctions, the topic "is more of an issue for Baghdad."
Editing by John J. Catherine
(Blessa Shaweys contributed to this report)