WASHINGTON DC, United States (Kurdistan 24) – Sen. John McCain, the powerful chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, issued a statement Monday strongly critical of Baghdad’s assault on Kurdish-controlled Kirkuk.
“I am deeply concerned by media reports of military advances by Iraqi government forces against Kurdish positions near Kirkuk,” McCain said.
“I am especially concerned by media reports that Iranian and Iranian-backed forces are part of the assault,” his statement continued.
Indeed, the “Hashd al-Shaabi forces (Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) affiliated with the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force” are heavily involved in the assault on Kirkuk, the Peshmerga General Command said in a statement it issued earlier on Monday.
The key role of Iranian-backed forces in the attack on Kirkuk assumes special significance, after US President Donald Trump on Friday designated “the entire Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC),” including “its officials, agents, and affiliates” a terrorist organization, subject to US sanctions.
As Zalmay Khalilzad, former US ambassador to Iraq, tweeted Sunday, “IRGC-backed militia, led by terrorist Mahdi Mohandis, has begun an assault on Kirkuk,” and “reliable reports indicate the PMF militia is using Abrams tanks provided by the US to the Iraqi armed forces.”
McCain called on the Iraqi forces to “take immediate steps to de-escalate this volatile situation by ceasing their advances.”
The Senator noted the US “provided equipment and training to the Government of Iraq to fight [the Islamic State (IS)] and secure itself from external threats—not to attack elements of one of its own regional governments.”
McCain described the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) as “a longstanding and valuable partner” of the US.
“Make no mistake, there will be severe consequences if we continue to see American equipment misused in this way,” he affirmed.
As chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, McCain is in a position to act on that statement.
The Senator called on Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi “to halt hostilities immediately” and negotiate with the Kurdish leadership.
Richard Haas, President of the Council on Foreign Relations, weighed into the debate with a similar comment on Monday.
Haas tweeted that a truly “muscular” policy against Iran “would include helping Kurds resisting Iran-backed governments in Iraq, Syria.”
Khalilzad concluded, “The Kurds need our help against IRGC backed forces.”
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany