White House National Security Adviser: US is 'very committed' to Kurds’ success in Iraq

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps “was able to exploit the differences between factions within the PUK” and “then between the PUK and KDP” to attack Kirkuk, he observed.

WASHINGTON DC, United States (Kurdistan 24) – “The United States is very committed to the success of the Kurds in Iraq,” Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser, H. R. McMaster, affirmed on Wednesday.

Speaking at an annual conference of the Jamestown Foundation, McMaster stated that resolving the problems between the Kurdistan Regional Government and Iraq “is a big priority for President Trump and for Secretary Tillerson and the whole team.” 

McMaster noted that beginning in 1991, with Operation Provide Comfort (OPC), “We helped prevent further atrocities and brutality aimed at the Kurdish populations in Northern Iraq.” 

OPC continued for another 12 years, until 2003, when the US-led coalition overthrew Saddam Hussein’s regime in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF.) 

“What happened?” McMaster asked. “You saw the Kurdish Region flourish.” 

“It’s a miracle, almost, what happened in Northern Iraq in terms of beautiful cities in Sulaimani, Erbil, and Dohuk,” he affirmed. 

You saw the return of populations to those regions” and “a vibrant,” though “fragile” and “vulnerable” economy. 

“So what we want is the success of Iraq,” the National Security Advisor continued. “We want an Iraq that is strong.” 

“We think an important aspect of Iraq being strong is resolving this conflict and tension between the Kurdish Region and the rest of Iraq,” he said. “So we’re committed to that.”

“We are committed to the territorial integrity of Iraq and also the territorial integrity of the Kurdish Region.” 

“We are committed to work together with the Kurdish leadership [and] the Iraqi leadership [and] mediate as best we can.” 

McMaster knows Iraq well, particularly the north of the country, including the Kurds, from his time as commander of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. The 3rd ARC was charged in 2005 with defeating the insurgents in Tal Afar, then considered nearly as challenging as Fallujah. 

McMaster was an early advocate of the doctrine of COIN—counter-insurgency warfare, which demands an intimate knowledge of the local population, a focus then alien to the US Army, which was oriented toward war understood as the clash of conventional armies. (Indeed, COIN was foreign to the Pentagon, where Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld continued to claim that there was no insurgency in Iraq.) 

In Tal Afar, McMaster “bused in” Kurdish Peshmerga “to do the heaviest fighting,” The New Yorker reported then. The operation proved to be an early success in the counter-insurgency phase of the war. 

In speaking on Wednesday, McMaster was especially concerned about Iranian aggression. 

He suggested that Tehran, “which has been very successful in infiltrating and subverting Iraqi institutions, functions, [and] organizations, wants an Iraq that is perpetually weak.”

McMaster noted, “Others in the region,” particularly Iran, seek to manipulate the tensions between Erbil and Baghdad, and even among the Kurds, “for their own benefit.’

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps “was able to exploit the differences between factions within the PUK” and “then, between the PUK and KDP” to attack Kirkuk, he observed. 

McMaster concluded, by advising that the Kurdish leadership “has to recognize that it is vulnerable to this kind of nefarious activity on the part of the Iranians.”

“But they enjoy our support, as do the Iraqis, in resolving these tensions,” he stated, as he affirmed that “strengthening the Kurdish Region as part of Iraq” remains an important US goal.

Editing by Nadia Riva