Kurdish disappointment with the United States can be overcome, according to Kurdistan Regional Government Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, and Washington can still remain as Erbil’s No. 1 partner.
“There was disappointment among the Kurdish people; the people of Kurdistan have had high expectations from the United States and they believe that the values the U.S. cherishes, we also cherish,” Barzani said in an interview with Fox News in Erbil.
The PM hinted that despite the US government’s opposition to the timing of September’s Kurdish independent bid, there may be future chances for the two nations to retain close bilateral relations.
“But the people of Kurdistan, they still love the United States,” he said. “Kurds consider themselves a friend and partner to the United States. We want this to continue long term.”
Barzani spoke of the partnership between Kurdish Peshmerga and American forces through the successful war against ISIS.
“Over 1,846 Peshmerga soldiers have sacrificed their lives and more than 10,000 were wounded fighting ISIS,” Barzani said. “ISIS was a threat not only to Kurdistan, but to Europe, the U.S., to humanity.”
Referring to the October 16th operations when the Iraqi military, supported by Iran-backed Hashd al-Shaabi began an offensive to take over Kirkuk from the KRG, Barzani expressed the surprise of the Kurdish people of Baghdad’s seemingly tacit approval by the West.
“Therefore, the Kurdish people were expecting that when a threat comes in, the US would stand by them. They were not expecting that American tanks given to the Iraq government would be used against them by the Popular Mobilization Units.”
Kirkuk, like several other disputed or Kurdistani areas claimed by both Erbil and Baghdad, remains disputed.
“The fact is neither Baghdad nor Erbil had full control over these areas,” Barzani said, stressing that the issues should have been “addressed in accordance with the constitution” and not by military pressure.
Iraq has so far refused to commit to unconditional negotiations with the KRG despite Erbil having offered to freeze the results of the Kurdish vote, and has respected a ruling from the Iraqi Federal Court that concluded the Iraqi constitution does not allow secession.
“We have made it clear we want to address all these issues through dialogue with Baghdad, but they have not yet shown their readiness for this,” added Barzani.
The United States and other members of the international community have tried to “facilitate conversations,” but ultimately say any mediation must come at the request of the Iraqi government.