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Published On: Fri, Nov 3rd, 2017

U.S. Senators urge al-Abadi to talk with Kurdistan’s Regional Government

nsnbc : Eight U.S.-American senators from both major parties have urged Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to refrain from military solutions and to accept an offer from the leadership of Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to freeze the results of the Kurdistan Autonomous Region’s (KAR) independence referendum on September 25, in return for open dialog between Baghdad and Erbil.

US Senators urge al-Abadi to talk with Kurds_USA_Iraq_KARIn a letter styled to the office of Iraqi PM al-Abadi the eight senators said they are troubled by the use of Americans weapons against the Kurds and other minorities when clashes erupted since October 16 following the Kurdistan Autonomous Region’s independence referendum on September 25. The senators, six Republican and two Democrats, including Senator Marco Rubio (R) and Tim Kaine, the candidate of the Democratic Party for Vice President in the 2016 presidential elections, said that while they supported a united Iraq, they also supported a strong Kurdish government, too.

The letter dated November 2 read “We write to emphasize our support for a united, federal and democratic Iraq and urge you [PM Abadi] to work with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to de-escalate this dangerous situation that is no one’s interest.”  The senators also say they recognize that the “unilateral” Kurdish referendum held by the KRG on September 25 had put Baghdad in a “difficult position” and risked to shift focus on the war on ISIS, but they are also “mindful” of the Kurdish support these past years, in particular to the war against ISIS. “We continue to support a strong and autonomous KRG within a unified and federal Iraq,” the senators said.

The statement argued that the vote on independence even divided the Kurdish opinion, and therefore was a contributing factor behind the resignation of Masoud Barzani from his post as president late last month. The KRG having realized the “unintended” consequences of the vote, it has offered to freeze the results of the vote in exchange for talks with Baghdad under the Iraqi constitution, the letter said, calling on PM Abadi to accept this offer.

The Kurdish Peshmerga have accused the Iraqi forces, and their mainly Shiite, Iranian-backed Hashd al-Shaabi, of having used American-supplied weapons in the fight that took place between the two sides, including Abrams tanks. The Peshmerga stated they destroyed two such tanks.  “Having invested considerable resources to equip and train the ISF [Iraqi Security Forces], we are deeply troubled at the prospect of American-supplied arms being used against Kurds or other minority communities.” the letter continued.

US Senators urge al-Abadi to talk with Kurds_USA_Iraq_Abrams tank with Hezbollah flagThe senators urge Baghdad to avoid unilateral or uncoordinated military movements in the disputed areas, and to help bring about “constitutional solutions” to the outstanding issues including a joint mechanism in the disputed areas. On Wednesday, several US congressmen including war veterans gathered in front of the Capitol and strongly criticized the presence of Iran-backed militias within the Iraqi Interior Ministry and call for more US State Department and White House support for Kurds. US Rep. Duncan Hunter, while holding up a photo of what he believes were Shiite militias on a US tank:

“A picture is worth 1,000 words. There’s the M1 Abrams tank with a Hezbollah flag. I don’t care what the State Department says, they can’t argue with this. At the best, the State Department has been derelict in its duties. … At worse they’ve been complicit.” 

Many of congressmen and advisors who took turns talking on Wednesday emphasized that the State Department policy does not match how they see the facts on the ground. “We are equipping and training the wrong people. It’s time we rose above what the State Department has screwed up over and over. Iraq was a military victory lost by politics in the State Department… The State Department is going to lose us Iraq again in one of the worst ways,” added Duncan.

F/AK – nsnbc 03.11.2017

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