Barzani vows to send ex­tra forces to de­fend Kirkuk

The Kurdish Globe - - FRONT PAGE -

Kur­dis­tan Re­gion Pres­i­dent Mas­soud Barzani vis­ited the strate­gic city of Kirkuk in north­ern Iraq on Tues­day where he met with pro­vin­cial au­thor­i­ties and Pesh­merga com­man­ders in the Kirkuk front­lines, as well as meet­ing rel­a­tives of the cap­tured Pesh­merga fighters.

Barzani, ad­dress­ing a crowd of Kur­dish Pesh­merga fighters, lo­cal po­lit­i­cal party of­fi­cials and jour­nal­ists, promised to send ad­di­tional forces to de­fend Kirkuk as he ap­pointed a com­man­der to over­see mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions in the prov­ince.

“We are not ready to re­lin­quish even a hand’s width of Kur­dish land,” he said. “If Kirkuk at any time be­comes part of the Kur­dis­tan Re­gion again, it will be clear how well we will serve it.”

Pesh­merga forces se­cured Kirkuk, fol­low­ing an ISIS blitzkrieg across Iraq in June, and re­in­forced troops al­ready sta­tioned there to pre­vent the city from fall­ing to the re­li­gious zealots. The oil­rich and multi-eth­nic city – which is also claimed by Iraq’s Arabs – is re­garded by the Kurds as the cap­i­tal of a fu­ture state.

Barzani ar­rived in the city for the first time since a mas­sive ISIS as­sault last month, in which dozens of Pesh­merga were killed. In ad­di­tion, 17 Pesh­merga sol­diers were taken cap­tive by ISIS on the night of Jan­uary 30 in a sur­prise attack, and last week pa­raded in or­ange jump­suits in­side cages in Haw­ija, south of Kirkuk.

The Pres­i­dent warned that ISIS would pay dearly if it harmed those cap­tives.

“The en­emy should know that if those Pesh­merga are killed, it will cost them heav­ily. Those who com­mit the crime and those who ap­plaud will pay dearly. This is not some­thing to pass eas­ily,” he said.

Barzani also is­sued a re­as­sur­ance to all Kirkuk res­i­dents, say­ing the Pesh­merga are there to de­fend them all, “Arabs, Turk­men and Chris­tians, not only the Kurds.”

Speak­ing from the front­lines, he said that the Kurds had not cho­sen war, but that it had been im­posed on them. “We do not have any other way but to de­fend our­selves as a na­tion,” he said. “What the brave Pesh­merga have done has im­pressed the whole world.”

ISIS mil­i­tants have launched nu­mer­ous at­tacks against the Pesh­merga on many fronts, es­pe­cially Kirkuk, Gwer and Makhmour since they were pushed back from the re­gion in Septem­ber.

Barzani said he wanted to cor­rect a mis­con­cep­tion: “Some peo­ple say that we have oc­cu­pied Kirkuk. This is wrong. The Pesh­merga were al­ways in Kirkuk. Kirkuk is a city in Kur­dis­tan and its Kur­dish iden­tity is not de­bat­able. We are de­fend­ing Kirkuk not oc­cu­py­ing it.”

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