US supports strong KRG, re-opening of airports: Senior official

Karim Sinjari, Minister of the Interior in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and Acting Minister of Peshmerga Affairs, has just concluded a week-long visit to Washington.

WASHINGTON DC, United States (Kurdistan 24) – Karim Sinjari, Minister of the Interior in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and Acting Minister of Peshmerga Affairs, has just concluded a week-long visit to Washington.

Sinjari is the most senior Kurdish official to visit the US capitol since the dispute over the Sep. 25 independence referendum. However, the highest-level meeting between US and KRG officials took place last week in Davos, Switzerland, where KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani met with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Sinjari’s delegation included Hoshang Mohamed, Director-General of the KRG Joint Crisis Coordination Center.

Sinjari met with National Security Adviser, H. R. McMaster, who hailed him as “a great hero of Kurdistan.”

In 2005, McMaster commanded the US Army’s 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, charged with defeating the insurgency in Tal Afar. McMaster “bused in” Kurdish Peshmerga “to do the heaviest fighting,” The New Yorker reported then, and the operation proved an early success.

During his visit, Sinjari also saw State Department officials, including the Deputy Secretary of State, John Sullivan, just before the US official left for visits to Baghdad and Erbil on Sunday and Monday.

The KRG Minister met with senior officials at the Pentagon as well.

At the conclusion of his trip, Sinjari briefed the Kurdish media. He told Kurdistan 24 that his visit had been “very good” and that the US supported “Kurdish federalism in Iraq and a strong KRG.”

Sinjari explained that four issues topped his agenda: 1) support for the Peshmerga forces; 2) the humanitarian crisis and the burden of caring for the humanitarian needs of some two million Internally Displaced Persons and refugees; 3) the negotiations between Erbil and Baghdad; and 4) what comes next in the war on terror, after the military defeat of the Islamic State (IS).

The KRG wants the US “to encourage the Iraqi government” to engage in dialogue with the KRG and “solve problems within the framework of the Iraqi constitution,” Sinjari said.

For their part, US officials assured him that they “fully support” negotiations between Erbil and Baghdad within the Iraqi constitution, especially the questions of re-opening airports in the Kurdistan Region; paying the salaries of government employees; and revenue-sharing between Erbil and Baghdad.

During his week in Washington, Sinjari also held some 13 meetings on Capitol Hill, where he saw five members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, including the committee’s senior Republican and Democratic senators, as well as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), the Republican co-sponsor, along with Senator Barbara Boxer (D-California), of a 2015 measure that would have provided for the direct arming of the Peshmerga.

The Senate Armed Services Committee has been strongly supportive of the Peshmerga.

In addition, Sinjari met with two Senators from the Homeland Security Committee. Presumably, their interest in seeing him lies in the possibility of further IS terrorism inside the country.

Although there have been a handful of IS-directed or IS-inspired attacks in the US, Europe, particularly France, has suffered from the most lethal assaults.

On Monday, speaking at the Wilson Center in Washington, Kirstjen Nielsen, head of the Department of Homeland Security, warned that IS “has used chemical weapons on the battlefield in Syria and Iraq, and it is only a matter of time before they try to conduct such attacks in the West.”

Editing by Nadia Riva