PM Masrour Barzani congratulates Antony Blinken as new US Secretary of State

Antony Blinken speaks during his confirmation hearing to be Secretary of State before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Jan. 19, 2021. (Photo: AFP/Alex Edelman)
Antony Blinken speaks during his confirmation hearing to be Secretary of State before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Jan. 19, 2021. (Photo: AFP/Alex Edelman)

WASHINGTON DC - (Kurdistan 24) Masrour Barzani, Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), offered his congratulations on Wednesday to Antony Blinken, who was confirmed on Tuesday by the US Senate as America’s next Secretary of State.

“I’m looking forward to working closely together to further develop the US strategic partnership with the Kurdistan Region and Iraq,” Barzani tweeted, adding, and also to “enhance regional peace and security.”

Blinken was Deputy Secretary of State in the previous Democratic administration of Barack Obama (2009-2017.) In that capacity, Blinken met with the  Kurdish delegation that visited Washington in May 2015, some nine months after the US-led coalition began the fight in Iraq and Syria against the so-called Islamic State.

As Chancellor of the Kurdistan Region Security Council, Barzani was a member of the KRG delegation, which was led by President Masoud Barzani and included Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani, as well as the KRG Minister of Peshmerga Affairs, Mustafa Sayyid Qadr.

As the Kurdish Peshmerga were playing a crucial role in an ongoing fight against an international threat, they were received at the highest levels of the US government.

The delegation met with Obama and his Vice-President, Joe Biden, who is, of course, now president.

At the State Department, the Kurdish delegation met with Blinken. As the State Department’s read-out of that meeting states, the two parties discussed “the important role of the Kurdish Peshmerga and the Kurdish people in the fight against [ISIS.]”

Blinken offered his condolences for the lives lost “throughout Iraq from terrorist attacks, including more than one thousand Kurdish Peshmerga who have fallen victim” to the brutality of the terrorist group “and the many more who have been wounded.”

Blinken “also underscored the historic relationship that the United States shares with the Kurdistan Regional Government and its people and emphasized our full commitment to that relationship.”

“Both leaders recognized that Iraq is on the front line in the war against [ISIS] and that Iraq, the United States, the region, and the international community must stand together to face this threat,” the US read-out continued.

The last visit of a Kurdish delegation to Washington had occurred three years before—in 2012, two years before ISIS burst on the scene to threaten both Erbil and Baghdad and precipitate the US military reengagement in Iraq.

Washington would come to understand that the bald sectarianism of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki had contributed significantly to the rise of the Sunni terrorist group. As a pre-condition for the US intervention to combat ISIS, the Obama administration demanded that Maliki resign, and he had little choice but to do so.

KRG President Masoud Barzani had earlier led a cross-sectarian effort within Iraq to remove Maliki. However, when he sought US support for that objective in his 2012 visit to Washington, he was rebuffed.

Whether the Obama administration recalled Barzani’s advice two years later, when it actually insisted on Maliki’s replacement, or if that advice influenced the administration in its demand for Maliki’s resignation is unknown. Yet, as it should be noted, that is the historical record.

Editing by John J. Catherine