ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A US house of representatives delegation, headed by congressman Adam Smith, met with Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister, Masrour Barzani, on Monday to discuss ties between Erbil and Washington as well as recent developments in the area.
In a press conference following the meeting, Representative Adam Smith (D) said the two officials had “discussed how to work together with the Kurds in resolving a lot of tensions in Iraq and Syria.”
“The big point is we are strong allies, and we will continue to be strong allies,” stated Smith, adding that “the Unites States Congress did not stand with Trump’s decision to retreat from Syria as we are standing with the Kurds,” in reference to a decision last month by US President Donald Trump to withdraw troops from northeastern Syria and allowing Turkey to launch an incursion in the area against the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
Smith also noted that although the US administration had now caused “great damages, the decision is being revised, and we are going to keep troops in Syria, and will absolutely begin to rebuild that credibility,” which he warned “might take time.”
“We are not in Syria to get the oil,” argued Smith, saying that “the president is absolutely wrong in saying that.” Trump’s latest statement about the US’ presence in Syria claimed the aims was primarily to protect the oil, but Smith did affirm the extent of the US’ focus on the oil was “to make sure that it does not fall at the hands of ISIS.”
“The United States of America doesn’t have that oil, never going to have that oil as it’s not our oil and that is not what we are doing here. We are protecting the oil from the terrorist group ISIS, not to claim them for ourselves.”
The congressman assured that US forces were at the moment still working “stop ISIS from resurging and working with our (SDF) partners to ensure that.” He explained the US mission in Syria would also make sure there is a place for the Kurds in Syria now that the Syrian regime is coming back to the border areas and “looking to rebuild policy relationships with the Kurds that has fallen in the last month.”
Prime Minister Barzani welcomed the comments made by Smith, adding that “the US has been with us in the fight against terrorism” from the beginning, “helping us greatly.” At the same time, Barzani warned, the threat of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria is “very much alive” and added that the KRG “would like to see that commitment continue,” referring to the US-led coalition’s ongoing support to the Kurdistan Region in the fight against terror.
“They are still out there, and they are not only threat to the region but to the rest of the world, so that would require much closer cooperation with the coalition. We have seen a 300 percent increase of ISIS activity since last spring,” added Barzani
Barzani also expressed his concerns regarding other recent developments in Syria, notably in the northeast, saying, “we hope that decision is revised and taking into consideration the Kurdish people and the rest of the population living in that area.”
Prime Minister Barzani and Representative Smith affirmed the strong bond between the Kurdistan Region and the US, reacknowleding their support to the stabilization and security of the region. Smith also met with President Nechirvan Barzani on Monday.
Editing by Nadia Riva