WASHINGTON DC, United States (Kurdistan 24) – Sen. Marco Rubio added his voice to the growing number of figures in Washington, DC who now stress the importance of reducing tensions and preventing conflict in the region, following the Sep. 25 Kurdistan independence referendum.
“The most important thing we can do in the short term is to help prevent a destabilizing conflict,” the Senator from Florida told Kurdistan 24 on Wednesday.
The issue of Kurdish independence, Rubio believes, “should be part of an ongoing dialogue in the future.”
“But, in the interim, right now, with the instability in the region,” he explained, we hope “both Baghdad and Erbil will lower those tensions.”
Rubio is concerned that escalating tensions would be “counterproductive for both sides.” Such a situation could empower “Iran and others” who seek not only “to control Iraq, but also to control Kurdistan.”
The Republican Senator is sympathetic to the Kurds, as a people, and to their political aspirations.
“I wouldn’t ask the Kurdish people to abandon their hopes of independence,” he explained, along with their ability to discuss that issue and their status in the future.
“But, we need to be very careful in the interim that, in doing so, it doesn’t trigger something that’s counter-productive,” he advised.
Rubio sees the biggest risk of conflict coming from Iran. Tehran could use “one of their militia groups to trigger an armed conflict,” which they could then “use as a pretext” for hostilities.
Asked if the US should help Kurdistan, Rubio replied, unhesitatingly, “I do. And, I think we should.”
But, in the short term, the key point for Rubio is to calm the situation.
Indeed, Ryan Crocker, US ambassador to Iraq during the “surge,” and John Hannah, National Security Adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney, have both suggested the strong, public US criticism of the referendum only served to increase tensions, emboldening regional parties, like Tehran, Ankara, and even Baghdad, who also opposed the vote.
Rubio’s views carry particular weight, as he sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. That committee oversees the State Department, which has had the lead in formulating US policy on the Kurdistan referendum and on independence itself.
Rubio’s views on the referendum and Kurdish independence are at odds with those of the State Department. The next time that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson appears before the committee, he may, quite possibly, face some tough questions on these issues from the Senator.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany