WASHINGTON DC, United States (Kurdistan24) – State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert criticized the ultimatum that Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi issued on Tuesday to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), demanding that it turn over control of the Kurdistan Region’s airports and border crossings to Baghdad.
Erbil has three days to do so, or, Abadi threatened, Iraq would impose an international air embargo and ask neighboring countries to close their borders with the Kurdistan Region.
Asked to respond to Abadi’s statements, Nauert told the State Department press corps later that day that the US wanted “all sides to engage constructively.”
“We want both sides to come together,” she said, and “move things forward,” but “in a constructive fashion.”
Earlier on Tuesday, responding to Abadi’s ultimatum, Kurdish President Masoud Barzani called for dialogue with Baghdad because “it is dialogue that will solve problems,” while “there is no need to be angry and issue threats.”
Nauert also affirmed that the US supports “a unified democratic Iraq.”
However, Paul Davis, a former analyst of Kurdish affairs at the Pentagon, told Kurdistan 24, “Iraq is neither of those things.”
Nauert was challenged on the difference between the US position toward the Oct. 1 Catalonia independence referendum, which she called an “internal matter,” and its position on the Kurdistan independence referendum.
The difference was the threat from the Islamic State (IS), she said.
“Spain does not face the [IS] threat that Iraq does,” Nauert stated. “We are not engaged in a heavy battle against [IS] in Spain, like the [US] and coalition allies are in Iraq.”
However, Acting Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, Amb. David Satterfield, speaking about Syria on Sep. 18, affirmed, “The defeat of [IS] is well underway.”
Kurdistan 24 later pressed a State Department official as to how they could claim that IS was nearly defeated in Syria, and it was time discuss the political settlement that should follow its defeat—as Satterfield had said—but claim that in Iraq, IS remained such a big threat that any such discussions must be postponed far into the future.
This official practically conceded the illogic, “I’m not the policymaker here.” As Davis suggested, IS is “an excuse” promoted by those who remain committed, for other reasons, to a “one-Iraq” policy.
Kurdistan 24 also asked Nauert about the US view of the threats of military action against the Kurdistan Region that have been made by Turkey, Iran, and Iraq.
“We want safety and security for the Iraqi people,” she replied. “We had tremendous concerns with this referendum.”
“These threats of military action, you don’t firmly oppose them?,” Kurdistan 24 asked, again, more directly.
“We oppose violence from any party,” she responded.
Davis readily agreed that even the second answer was weak, and a weak US stance might tempt some party to attack the Kurdistan Region.
He discounted the threat from Turkey. Purges of the army since 2016 have been so extensive, that it has become a “hollow shell.”
Davis believes that the most serious threat comes from Iran and the Iraqi militias under Tehran’s control.
President Barzani has repeatedly affirmed that the KRG will continue to fight IS, but if the Kurdistan Region were attacked, Peshmerga might have to be diverted to confront the new threat.
Davis also noted that Salih Muslim, head of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the political wing of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), America’s most important ally in the fight against IS in Syria, affirmed that if the Kurdistan Region were attacked, YPG units were prepared to help defend the Region.
“That would also hurt the fight against IS,” Davis said.
Editing by G.H. Renaud