PM Barzani says: U.S.led coali­tion against IS faces long war

The Kurdish Globe - - FRONT PAGE -

Kur­dish Prime Min­is­ter Nechir­van Barzani warned that de­spite vic­to­ries in the war against Is­lamic State, the global coali­tion against the group is in­ad­e­quate, and pre­dicted the cam­paign to re­take the Iraqi city of Mo­sul to hap­pen be­fore the next fall.

In an in­ter­view with Reuters late on Thurs­day, Barzani said there is lit­tle chance of de­feat­ing the ISIS ter­ror­ists so long as the civil war rages on in Syria, the Iraqi army con­tin­ues to ex­ist more on pa­per than on the ground, and the Kur­dish Pesh­merga forces in north­ern Iraq re­main woe­fully un­der­armed.

Cur­rent U.S. strat­egy, says the Prime Min­is­ter of the self-rul­ing Kur­dis­tan Re­gional Gov­ern­ment (KRG), will at best con­tain IS, a re­silient and care­fully struc­tured or­ga­ni­za­tion that will men­ace the re­gion and the world for years to come.

The ter­ror­ist move­ment, which last year de­clared a cross-bor­der caliphate af­ter seiz­ing tracts of ter­ri­tory in eastern Syria and west and north­ern Iraq, di­rectly threat­ens the Iraqi Kur­dish en­tity across front lines just 45 km (30 miles) from Er­bil, the bustling cap­i­tal of the KRG.

“This is a long war. They con­trol more than 15 mil­lion peo­ple in Iraq and Syria,” said Barzani, nephew of Kur­dis­tan’s Pres­i­dent Mas­soud Barzani. “IS has now been con­tained and con­trolled but it is still able to carry out at­tacks."

“They are or­ga­nized and able to re­cruit peo­ple from all over the world. The struc­ture of this or­ga­ni­za­tion has been set up in such a way that it will re­main in­tact”.

The fight­back against Is­lamic State launched by a U.S.-led coali­tion last year, re­ly­ing on air strikes with no com­mit­ment of ground troops, will not dis­lodge the ji­hadists from strongholds such as Mo­sul, just 80 km (50 miles) from Er­bil.

“With air strikes you can­not de­stroy this or­ga­ni­za­tion for sure," he said. "To de­stroy this or­ga­ni­za­tion we need some spe­cial forces, some joint mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions fight­ing along­side the Pesh­merga.”

He added: “The ques­tion is: is the pol­icy one of con­tain­ment, or to de­stroy them?” said Barzani at his luxury res­i­dence in the cap­i­tal. “In or­der to to­tally erad­i­cate them, fur­ther dras­tic ac­tions must be taken.”

Barzani said Kurds are fight­ing the Is­lamic State to re­take ar­eas that right-

fully be­long to the Kur­dish Re­gion and would avoid us­ing Pesh­merga fighters to drive Is­lamic State fighters from Sunni ar­eas or Mo­sul.

"As Kurds we don’t want to spear­head any attack to re­take Mo­sul. We want to avoid fur­ther con­flict,” he said.

IRAQI ARMY

He em­pha­sized that the timetable for such an of­fen­sive would de­pend on the re­build­ing of the Iraqi army, which col­lapsed last sum­mer as IS con­quered Mo­sul and raced across north­ern Iraq.

“There is no real Iraqi army that can do the job. It needs time. We have to be re­al­is­tic,” Barzani said.

Asked about plans touted by Iraqi and U.S. of­fi­cials for an of­fen­sive by June on Mo­sul, Barzani said: “March def­i­nitely not. June, also I doubt it”.

He said the “end of Septem­ber or Oc­to­ber” is a more re­al­is­tic date for an attack, link­ing an of­fen­sive to Bagh­dad’s abil­ity to train enough sol­diers to free the mil­i­tary up to move its two best di­vi­sions north from their cur­rent mission of pro­tect­ing the cap­i­tal.

While he praised the im­pact of U.S. air strikes, he made clear, both Iraq and the U.S.-led coali­tion’s plans against Is­lamic State were not ro­bust or based on a clear strat­egy.

“They need a com­pre­hen­sive strat­egy and ideas on how to deal with IS in the re­gion. There is no strat­egy and co­op­er­a­tion,” he said, drawing a con­trast with the ji­hadists' co­he­sion and dis­ci­pline.

"ISIS is well-trained, well-funded and can re­cruit as many as they want. And they also have fighters who are ready to die.”

Kur­dish forces have man­aged to re­verse Is­lamic State gains in the north, but the Kur­dish Prime Min­is­ter said they needed heav­ier weapons to deal with the threat de­ci­sively. “This is not a war you can win with AK-47s and RPGs.”

To elim­i­nate the IS threat, the pri­or­ity should be to seal the Iraq-Syria bor­der and deny the Is­lamist fighters free­dom of move­ment be­tween the two coun­tries that form the bulk of its self-pro­claimed caliphate.

"The re­al­ity is un­til the Syr­ian is­sue is prop­erly re­solved, destroying IS won’t be an easy task," he said in ref­er­ence to the Syr­ian civil war rag­ing next door since 2011.

Barzani de­scribed Iraqi Prime Min­is­ter Haider al-Abadi, a Shi'ite, as “prag­matic”, com­par­ing him favourably to his pre­de­ces­sor Nuri al-Ma­liki, whose poli­cies he blamed for alien­at­ing Sun­nis by mo­nop­o­liz­ing power and cre­at­ing the en­vi­ron­ment that al­lowed Is­lamic State to emerge.

But he said Abadi had limited room for ma­noeu­vre in the shadow of a well-en­trenched Ma­liki, who re­tains a lo­cal power base.

“The big­gest prob­lem for Abadi is Nuri al-Ma­liki”.

He said Iraq, which has been rav­aged by sec­tar­ian and eth­nic war­fare since the 2003 US-led in­va­sion that top­pled Iraq's Sunni dic­ta­tor Sad­dam Hus­sein, does not ex­ist as a uni­fied coun­try.

“There is no loy­alty to a coun­try called Iraq,” he said.

“It re­ally is im­por­tant to find for­mula for how to live to­gether within the bound­aries of what is called Iraq. Un­less a for­mula is found, there will be more blood­shed and

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