Pres­i­dent Barzani: Pesh­marga need weapons; no mat­ter how and which way they would be sent

The Kurdish Globe - - NEWS -

The Pres­i­dent of Kur­dis­tan’s Re­gional Gov­ern­ment on Wed­nes­day backed a long-held de­mand that the United States di­rectly sup­ply arms to the Pesh­marga he leads in the war against the Is­lamic State ex­trem­ists.

The di­rect arm­ing of Kur­dish forces is a con­tentious is­sue.

The cen­tral Iraqi gov­ern­ment in Bagh­dad has op­posed di­rect sales of weapons to Kur­dish Pesh­merga fighters fear­ing Kur­dish lead­ers will even­tu­ally use the aid to break away from Iraq and cre­ate a new coun­try. The Kurds, mean­while, ac­cuse Bagh­dad of fail­ing to dis­trib­ute their share of U.S.-sup­plied weapons as they take on the brunt of the fight­ing against the Is­lamic State in north­ern Iraq.

“The im­por­tant point here is that Pesh­merga get th­ese weapons,” Pres­i­dent Ma­soud Barzani told an au­di­ence at the At­lantic Coun­cil in Wash­ing­ton. “How they will come and which way — that’s not as im­por­tant as the fact that Pesh­merga need the weapons to be there.”

The soft­en­ing of Barzani’s po­si­tion comes af­ter his meet­ing with Pres­i­dent Barack Obama and Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den on Tues­day, dur­ing which the U.S. em­pha­sized its com­mit­ment to a fed­eral, demo­cratic, and per­haps most im­por­tant, united Iraq.

“The meet­ing was very suc­cess­ful,” said Barzani through a trans­la­tor. “We have re­al­ized and no­ticed that both Pres­i­dent Obama and Vice Pres­i­dent Bi­den want the Pesh­merga to re­ceive the right ammunition and the right weapons.”

The Kur­dish Pres­i­dent held a fol­low-up meet­ing with Bi­den on Wed­nes­day. It was not im­me­di­ately clear what was dis­cussed.

Barzani noted that his re­la­tion­ship with the gov­ern­ment in Bagh­dad has im­proved since last year’s de­par­ture of for­mer Iraqi Prime Min­is­ter Nouri al-Ma­liki. Still, he said, a num­ber of dis­agree­ments re­main un­re­solved.

Bagh­dad and Er­bil have been at log­ger­heads for years as the Kurds have sold crude oil in­de­pen­dently of the cen­tral gov­ern­ment, sig­nalled their de­sire for full in­de­pen­dence, and pur­sued se­cre­tive arms deals with for­eign gov­ern­ments. Last sum­mer, in the heat of in­tense fight­ing be­tween the Kurds and the Is­lamic State, Kur­dis­tan in­tel­li­gence chief Mas­rour Barzani told the Wash­ing­ton Post they had re­ceived “not a sin­gle bul­let” from Bagh­dad. He pleaded the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity for di­rect mil­i­tary sup­port.

Ac­cord­ing to a state­ment af­ter Tues­day’s meet­ing, U.S. and Kur­dish of­fi­cials also dis­cussed the cam­paign to erad­i­cate the Is­lamic State and the sta­tus of po­lit­i­cal ef­forts to ad­dress the con­cerns of the Iraqi peo­ple.

Barzani told the au­di­ence on Wed­nes­day that Kurds will hold a ref­er­en­dum on in­de­pen­dence from Iraq, but only af­ter hos­til­i­ties die down. It is a pledge he has made re­peat­edly for years.

“I can­not say if it will be in the next year, or when, but cer­tainly the in­de­pen­dent Kur­dis­tan is com­ing,” he said. “We want to achieve the goal peace­fully, not through vi­o­lence. It will take place when the se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion is re­solved.”

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