WASHINGTON DC, United States (Kurdistan 24) – Masrour Barzani, Chancellor of the Kurdistan Region Security Council, spoke with Kurdistan 24 Tuesday on Capitol Hill, where he had just finished a series of meetings with US Congressmen.
“So far, we’ve had some very good meetings at the White House and here in Congress,” Barzani said. We’ve also had a number of meetings at the State Department.
US officials speak warmly of the Kurds, as Kurdistan 24 has observed in Washington, but there seems to be a gap between those warm words and what happens in Iraq.
“I believe so,” Barzani responded. “We’ve been telling” US officials that “sympathy and supporting words are good,” but they are “not enough” to solve the problems from which we suffer “right now” in Kurdistan.
“As you know, the airports are shut down,” and “there is an economic blockade.” Baghdad “does not allow” foreign officials to visit Kurdistan “or for people from Kurdistan to travel via Kurdish airports,” Barzani explained, as he described the collective punishments that Iraq has imposed on the Kurdistan Region.
“We’ve raised our concerns here,” Barzani said. “We’ve heard some very encouraging words, but as I said, that’s not enough.”
“We hope that Baghdad will implement the promises they have given us in some meetings that I had, before coming here” and that “some of the support that we’ve heard here” will help turn those promises into action, he continued.
Barzani emphasized that Baghdad has “a constitutional responsibility to pay the salaries of the Kurdish people,” which they have not done. They also “need to reopen the airports, because based on the constitution,” they cannot close them “for political reasons.”
The Kurdish security chief suggested that the upcoming elections are a major reason that Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi continues his collective punishment of the people of the Kurdistan Region. Abadi evidently believes that it will help him win votes.
In response to Kurdistan 24’s suggestion that the US had to do more to change that, the Chancellor replied, “We need enough pressure on Baghdad.”
“I do believe that, yes, I think that America has more leverage than it is actually using right now,” he said.
On Tuesday, Barzani met with three members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, all long-time friends of the Kurds.
They included Sen. James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma.) In November, Inhofe joined two other senators in writing President Donald Trump, urging him to support the Kurdistan Region, which they described as “an oasis of stability and democracy” in an “otherwise volatile and chaotic region.”
They particularly noted the threat to the Kurdistan Region posed by Iran’s “growing influence” and the militias Tehran supports in Iraq.
Barzani also saw Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Virginia), the Democratic Vice-Presidential candidate in the 2016 elections.
Along with seven other senators, Kaine wrote Abadi in November, noting “the immense support the KRG has provided over the years” and urging him “to engage in negotiations” with the KRG to establish “stable, peaceful, and productive relations.”
Barzani also conferred with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a 2016 Republican presidential candidate. A mere three days after Iraq’s Oct 16 attack on Kirkuk—directed by Qasim Soleimani, head of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps—Cruz issued a statement, denouncing the assault and calling for an end to the fighting.
“Such hostile actions pose a grave threat to the safety of our allies and the stability of the counter-ISIS mission,” Cruz wrote.
“We must not permit our support or our military equipment to be used by Iranian-backed militias toward a new, ill-conceived operation that is counter to US interests,” the Texas Senator said then.
Cruz also cited the overwhelming support for independence in the Kurdistan Region’s referendum, affirming, “Democracies across the globe should recognize the efforts made by the [KRG] to achieve self-determination, in the face of regional actors threatening their very livelihood.”
Earlier this month, a small group of Kurdish-Americans had the opportunity to speak with the Senator at a Republican Party fundraiser in Dallas, Texas.
“There should be an independent Kurdistan in the Middle East,” Cruz told them.