WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) – US Vice President Mike Pence spoke with the Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Nechirvan Barzani, by telephone on Thursday.
The discussion between the two leaders follows a meeting that Prime Minister Barzani had earlier on Thursday with Amb. William Roebuck, Deputy Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. Roebuck had been in Baghdad to address the Coalition’s Stabilization Working Group “to highlight the importance of stabilization as a means to ensure the enduring defeat of ISIS,” according to a State Department press release.
In the discussion between Pence and Barzani, the KRG Prime Minister provided the US Vice President “an update on the security situation in Iraq’s disputed territories,” while he “underscored the importance of continued US support to stabilize these areas,” according to the US read-out of their conversation.
Over one million Iraqis remain displaced, living in camps in the Kurdistan Region, and “Vice President Pence commended Prime Minister Barzani and the Kurdistan Regional Government for providing refuge” for those “displaced civilians and for leading Iraq’s efforts to protect religious components who suffered a genocide at the hands of ISIS,” the US summary of their discussion continued.
Dissatisfied with US efforts to address the needs of Christians and Yezidis in Northern Iraq, displaced by the onslaught of the Islamic State, Pence, since last June, has taken the lead in prodding US agencies to act more effectively to address the challenge of ensuring the safe return of those religious minorities to their ancestral homelands.
“The leaders also discussed opportunities to deepen the US partnership with Kurdistan,” the US read-out of the conversation continued “and work more closely to counter malign actors that seek to destabilize Iraq and undermine its sovereignty.”
That last phrase is, of course, a not so oblique reference to Iran. Paul Davis, a former Pentagon analyst and a Senior Fellow at Soran University, advised Kurdistan 24 that it would have been helpful, if Washington had opposed the Iraqi-Iranian assault on Kirkuk, rather than turn a blind eye to the attack.
It is not evident what prompted the discussion between Pence and Barzani, but Davis suggested that Washington might have sought to reassure the KRG of its support, following recent US measures against Iran, including against the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Indeed, as an informed Kurdish source told Kurdistan 24, those elements within the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) who colluded with Baghdad and Tehran in the attack on Kirkuk continue to say that the Kurds should look to Iran for their protection, and not to the US. The source noted, however, that they did poorly in the Kurdish elections, suggesting that it is not a very popular view.