ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – Rep. Trent Franks on Thursday called on the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to prevent any internal and external attacks against the Kurdistan Region as the latter promised.
Recently, the Kurdistan Region’s security and intelligence forces revealed Iraqi Forces and Iranian-backed Shiite militia troops, also known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), were preparing to launch major attacks on the Kurdistan Region from areas north of Mosul and south of Kirkuk.
The mobilization of armed forces to the area comes after a set of collective punishments and sanctions were imposed on the people of the Kurdistan Region by the Federal Government of Iraq in response to the Sep. 25 independence referendum.
“Over the past couple days, there has been a large concentration of up to 9,000 troops from the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) and Iraqi Army in the vicinity of Kirkuk and Mosul – less than 100 kilometers to the south and west of Erbil, respectively,” said the US congressman in a statement released on his website.
“The PMU, or Hashd al Shaabi, is an Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps-backed militia led by the Badr Corps Commander, Hadi Al-Ameri. In addition to being the top lieutenant to Qassim Soleimani (commander of the IRGC Quds Force), Al-Ameri is the leading candidate for Prime Minister of Iraq. The situation is becoming dangerous and could easily escalate,” Franks stressed.
He called on the Iraqi government to withdraw forces near the Kirkuk and Mosul lines of defense to de-escalate the situation.
“I urge Iraqi Prime Minister al-Abadi to fulfill the pledge made less than two weeks ago to prevent any external or internal attacks against the Kurds.”
Rep. Franks accused Tehran of interfering in the internal affairs in Iraq.
“In the midst of our success against the Islamic State, Iran has clearly been embedding itself as deeply as possible into the Iraqi government and military. It is past time for Baghdad to prove to us they are not a puppet of Tehran; it is no longer tenable for the US to give the government of Iraq money if the funds will simply flow into the coffers of men and forces allied with Iran,” he added.
This is a sentiment shared by former US ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, who accused Iranian Quds Force Commander Qassim Soleimani of increasing the prospect of conflict.
“Soleimani is in Iraq and pushing [Iraqi forces] to attack Kirkuk,” he wrote on Twitter.
The Congressman also called on the Washington DC administration not to abandon the Kurds, who have been a loyal friend of the US in the past.
“Consequently, it is time for the American government to cease its studied indifference to our loyal allies, the Kurds. We must embrace Kurdish self-determination, encourage increased control of the Nineveh Plain by indigenous Christian defense forces and demand Baghdad cease their duplicitous relationship with Iran -- if the US is to remain Iraq’s benefactor. Our fight against [IS] will be for nothing if it results in ceding control of Iraq to Iran.”
The relations between Erbil and Baghdad have deteriorated following the referendum, a move the central government deemed “unconstitutional.” The Kurdish leadership, on the other hand, claimed the push toward independence is the result of Baghdad’s ongoing discriminatory behavior in implementing articles of the Iraqi Constitution.
Editing by G.H. Renaud