‘We work incredibly closely with the KRG;’ US State Department
WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) – “We work incredibly closely with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG),” State Department Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus affirmed on Wednesday, in an interview with Kurdistan 24.
Ortagus explained that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “has an incredibly close relationship” with KRG Prime Minister, Masrour Barzani. That relationship dates back to Pompeo’s term as CIA Director in the first years of the Trump administration—from January 2017 to April 2018—after which Pompeo assumed his current position as America’s top diplomat, replacing Rex Tillerson.
Indeed, Prime Minister Barzani was the one foreign leader whom Pompeo telephoned following Iran’s attack on Iraqi military bases Tuesday night, according to the State Department’s press releases.
Read More: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo briefs Kurdistan PM Masrour Barzani on Iran strikes
Ortagus also noted that Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, David Schenker, worked closely with the KRG. Indeed, he was in Erbil on Thursday, where he met with the KRG’s long-time former President, Masoud Barzani, as well as the Prime Minister.
Read More: US State Dept. official meets with Kurdistan Region leaders in Erbil
Among the points that the Kurdish leadership stressed to Schenker is the need for the US-led coalition to remain in Iraq and continue the fight against the so-called Islamic State, otherwise “the terrorist group might reorganize under different names and slogans.”
US will continue anti-ISIS Campaign in Iraq, but Kurdish MPs should Speak Out
The perspectives in Erbil and Washington appear to be very similar. As Ortagus told Kurdistan 24, the US intends to do just that.
“We have been able to assist the Iraqi security forces with the territorial defeat of the Islamic caliphate that ISIS represents,” Ortagus said, “but that fight remains ongoing.”
Ortagus noted that while Kurdish members of Iraq’s parliament did not join in Sunday’s vote calling for foreign forces to leave Iraq, she suggested it would have been more helpful, if they had actively opposed the measure.
“We believe it is important and crucial for Kurds in the Iraqi parliament for their voice to be heard,” she said.
US holds Iran accountable for the Actions of its Proxies, Reviving Reagan-Era Policy
Ortagus also stressed that the US would hold Tehran responsible for the actions of its proxies.
“We will hold the regime in Iran accountable” for attacks “directly from the regime or from its proxies,” she stated, naming several of them: the Houthis in Yemen; Kata’ib Hizbollah and Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq in Iraq; as well as Hizbollah in Lebanon.
Indeed, that is the policy that emerged during the Reagan years, after substantial debate in the 1980s. The US came to recognize that major acts of terrorism were, most often, state-sponsored, and the best way to prevent further attacks was to punish the state sponsor. However, that perspective was lost in the 1990s, after Bill Clinton became president.
Ortagus stressed that Tehran’s missile attacks were a reckless violation of Iraqi sovereignty. Iran had “not only risked American lives and Iraqi lives,” but “the lives of Coalition partners from around the world.”
Moreover, Iran’s violation of Iraqi sovereignty did not begin on Tuesday. It has been violating Iraqi sovereignty “for years,” she said. “That is why you saw Iraqis taking to the streets to protest their government” and “to protest the malign influence of the regime in Iran.”
Separately, the State Department reported that on Tuesday, clashes erupted in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah, after protestors refused to allow Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, Kata’ib Hizbollah, and the Badr Organization to lead a funeral procession for Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy chief of the Popular Mobilization Forces and head of Kata’ib Hizbollah, who was killed, alongside Quds Force commander, Qasim Soleimani. Protestors reportedly torched the militia’s offices, after armed members of the militias fired on the demonstrators.
Ortagus concluded by reaffirming that the US would continue its maximum economic pressure campaign on Iran so that it will “behave like a normal nation.”
Editing by John J. Catherine