WASHINGTON DC, United States (Kurdistan 24) – Senator Marco Rubio (R, Florida) criticized the Trump administration for its lack of any evident strategy in regard to the conflict between Iraq and the Kurds.
“I want to know what the strategy is,” Rubio told Kurdistan 24 on Monday. “I think Iran, working through these (Shia) militias, has achieved its objective, which is to divide the Kurds and grow in influence and power at the expense of America and our allies.”
“I think it’s important that we have a strategy that shows our continued commitment to the Kurdish people,” he added.
Rubio sits on both the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. He has taken a hard-line on Iran, calling for the repeal of the nuclear deal reached under President Barack Obama and describing Tehran as “the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism.”
Asked about the decision of Kurdish President Masoud Barzani not to seek another term, Rubio seemed to view it as an unfortunate development, as he replied, “That’s what [the Iranians] seek to do: divide the Kurds against each other.”
“That only increases Iranian influence in Iraq, which is their long-term goal,” the Senator explained.
The Iranians seek “to drive us out and become more powerful at our expense, and this is part of their strategy.”
As for the Shia militias, they “are a tool of the Iranian government,” Rubio said.
Zalmay Khalilzad, former US ambassador to Iraq, the UN, and Afghanistan, said much the same at a Hudson Institute conference on October 23, exactly a week after the October 16 attack on Kirkuk by Iraqi forces in combination with Iranian-backed Shia militias.
Khalilzad explained that one purpose of the assault was “to bring to heel” those Kurds who “were more independent of Iran,” particularly those associated with the Kurdistan Democratic Party and President Barzani.
National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, in an October 25 interview with al-Hurra, the US-funded Arabic television station, expressed a similar view: Iran has created “these militias that lay outside of the Iraqi government’s control.” It worked to divide the Kurdish Regional Government, playing off Erbil against Sulaymaniyah, and then using “those divisions to assert [its] own interests.”
Thus, McMaster and Rubio seem to see Iran’s malevolent activities in Iraq in much the same fashion. That only underscores the salience of the Senator’s question: just what is the strategy?
Editing by Nadia Riva