WASHINGTON DC, United States (Kurdistan 24) – The US is monitoring reports of abuses being committed against the Kurdish population by Shia militias in Tuz Khurmatu, State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert said on Tuesday.
On Monday, Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani denounced the “huge catastrophe” facing Kurds in the ethnically mixed city.
The UN has reported that some 35,000 people have been forced to flee Tuz Khurmatu—roughly one-third of the population residing there before Oct 16. when Iraqi-forces, alongside Iranian-backed militias, attacked Kirkuk and other areas.
“We hold the Iraqi government responsible for what has happened and demand the return and protection of those displaced,” Barzani said, following a meeting of the Kurdistan Region’s Council of Ministers.
The Council voted to establish a team to examine human rights violations against the populations in Kirkuk and Tuz Khurmatu.
Barzani and the Council of Ministers condemned the silence of the international community and called on it to provide urgent assistance to the new refugees.
On Tuesday, Kurdistan 24 asked Nauert for a response to the abuses in Tuz Khurmatu. She replied, “We’ve seen the reports. We’re monitoring the reports.”
She also suggested that she had insufficient information to provide further details.
She was, however, more forthcoming about Baghdad’s attempts to force refugees from Anbar and Salahuddin provinces to return home.
Nauert read in full a statement that the US embassy in Baghdad had issued earlier this week.
“We support the safe, dignified, and voluntary return of people who have been displaced by the military operations to defeat [the Islamic State],” it said.
“To force people to return before they are ready and feel safe to do so risks their safety and well-being and could result in their renewed displacement,” the statement continued. “Provincial and federal authorities should ensure all returns are not only safe but also voluntary.”
The US is extremely reluctant to criticize Baghdad, because its policy rests, first, on helping ensure the election of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, and then on the assumption that once elected, Abadi will continue to allow US forces to remain in Iraq.
That is why the US turned a blind eye to the Oct. 16 assault on Kirkuk, Tuz Khurmatu, and other disputed areas. It also explains why America’s efforts to mediate between Baghdad and Erbil are so limited and low-key.
As an informed source explained to Kurdistan 24, when the US privately presses Abadi, he tells them that he is under a lot of pressure—i.e., pressure from Iran.
Iran has a long imperial tradition. Its Persian leadership understands how to subdue and control minorities. The KRG is now in Tehran’s sights. Iraq’s Sunni Arab community is already broken, as an Iraqi-American political activist explained to Kurdistan 24.
That leaves the KRG as the only meaningful element in Iraq capable of resisting Iranian pressure. It is US policy to support a united KRG that enjoys its constitutional rights, as senior US officials told Falah Mustafa, Head of the KRG’s Department of Foreign Relations, when he visited Washington last week.
But, it is also US policy to do the opposite: accommodate Abadi and the pressures that he faces from Tehran.
An unusually eloquent scholar was asked if current US policy toward the Kurds could be compared to Henry Kissinger’s notorious 1975 betrayal.
“No,” he replied. “Kissinger’s policy was odious realism. This is odious incompetence.”
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany