“What we see could have been prevented if the Peshmergas were well armed.”
Kurdish security official says ISIS, by seizing Iraqi governments arms, are by far outgunning Peshmarga Forces
In an interview with CNN’s leading political anchor Wolf Blitzer on Monday, August 11, 2014, Masrour Barzani, Chancellor of the Kurdistan Region Security Council, talks about the recent security situation in Kurdistan after the Islamic State (ISIS) fighters took control of the Yezidi town of Sinjar. Below is the script of the interview with Masrour Barzani:
BLITZER: Mr. Barzani, thanks very much for joining us from Erbil in Iraq.
What can you tell us? Have you heard the CIA is providing the Peshmerga fighters directly with weapons?
BARZANI: Thanks for having me.
Unfortunately, the help came a little too late. Now there has been some shipments of supplies, of mostly ammunition, to the Peshmergas. But if there had been support, military support to the Kurds, most of what we see happening now could have been prevented.
BLITZER: Because the Peshmerga are wonderful, very heroic fighters. I know you've been appealing to the United States and other international powers for a long time. What was the reason why they gave you, why they wouldn't help you directly? I know they often -- supposed to go through the central government in Baghdad but we know that Nouri al Maliki's regime there was no great friend of the Peshmerga or the Kurds. So what was the excuse the U.S. gave you for delaying providing direct weaponry to your fighters in the midst of this horrible situation?
BARZANI: Well, no one wanted to really deal with the Kurdish forces directly. Everything had to go through Baghdad. Unfortunately, Baghdad was not supportive of arming Peshmerga at the time. Unfortunately, most of the arms given to the Iraqi military later on were left at the posts and were seized by the ISIS which, later on, they used against our Peshmergas.
BLITZER: When you say, Mr. Barzani, it's too late, tell me what's the situation on the ground right now, as far as the Kurds are concerned, the Yazidis, other minorities, and Shiites. How strong is ISIS now? What needs to be done to change that?
BARZANI: In terms of telling you it's too late, I mean, it could have been -- what we see could have been prevented if the Peshmergas were well armed. Right now, Peshmergas are outgunned by the ISIS. ISIS has in its possession most of the arms that were left at the posts in both Iraqi military divisions and brigades that left their posts, and also from Syria. So ISIS now really has armaments that are much stronger, much more powerful, much more powerful firepower than the Peshmergas. If the Peshmergas could have this weapon, they could have defeated ISIS before they could commit this against them elsewhere in the country.
BLITZER: We know there are hundreds of thousands of minorities endangered right now. Do you really believe, Mr. Barzani, the Christian, the Yazidis, so many other minority groups, non-Muslims, are in danger now of genocide?
BARZANI: Absolutely. What you see today is an act of genocide on -- being unfolded in front of the world. And unfortunately, tens of thousands of people have fled to Mount. Sinjar and people on the mountain and around the mountain are still subject to great danger. Thanks to the United States and the air drop aid, there has been a corridor opened to these people to escape to safety. Unfortunately, the process is slow.
We also have deployed Peshmerga units. There were some Peshmerga units left with the people already that prevented ISIS from advancing into the mountains to commit massacres in that area. But at this time, there is ongoing process of rescuing these people on the mountain and, so far, thousands of families have been rescued.
BLITZER: One final question, Mr. Barzani, before I let you go. Tell us what you want president to do right now to help this situation.
BARZANI: I hope -well, we are thankful. We are all grateful to the brave decision that President Obama made in terms of supporting Peshmergas with the air strike. We hope this air strike will continue and the cycle of strikes against ISIS targets will be expanded to the areas where the bases of ISIS are located and not necessarily only at the line of battle between ISIS and the Peshmerga. So we hope that the area of operation is going to be expanded and this will be an ongoing process.
BLITZER: And what kind of weapons do you want from the United States?
BARZANI: Well, weapons that are effective against all this armed vehicles that have been seized by the ISIS. They, by far, have, you know, an upper hand and they were outgunning the Peshmergas, so any effective weapon that can defeat the enemy will be appreciated and needed for the Peshmergas.
BLITZER: One final question. Any help you're getting, substantial help from the Iraqi central government in Baghdad yet? We saw one -- Ivan Watson was on board with Peshmerga fighters. That seemed to be a little bit encouraging to me that there was some cooperation between the Iraqi military and the Peshmerga, the Kurdish fighters. What's the latest on that front?
BARZANI: Yes, there is cooperation but, unfortunately, the capabilities of the Iraqi army are limited. There are a few helicopters that are here to help, you know, with the refugees and the mountain to bring aid to them and also in the battle to help the Peshmerga in several areas. Unfortunately, the level of cooperation or the ability of the Iraqi military is limited. We hope this will continue and will expand.
BLITZER: Masrour Barzani, is the director of security and intelligence for the Kurdish regional government. Mr. Barzani, thank you so much for joining us. We will stay in very close touch with you. Good luck to all the people of Kurdistan. Good luck to all the people in northern Iraq right now. So many of the Christians, the Yazidis, the Kurds, other groups in northern Iraq, they face potentially, according to this Kurdish official, genocide at the hands of these ISIS terrorists.