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Kurdistan’s Barzani fires parting shots at US

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A still image shows Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani giving a televised speech, in Erbil, Iraq, on October 29, 2017. (By Reuters)

Masoud Barzani, who resigned as the president of Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region on Sunday, has delivered pointed remarks against the United States for ditching its putative allies, the Kurds.

In a televised speech shortly after Kurdistan’s regional parliament accepted his resignation, Barzani said no one had stood up to back Kurdish aspirations for independence.

Under Barzani’s supervision, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) defied the central government in Baghdad by holding a referendum on secession on September 25. Baghdad reacted by saying that the results of the plebiscite had to be annulled and that Kurdistan had to turn over the control of its border posts to the federal government.

The Iraqi military also launched operations to drive Kurdish militants out of territory that they had overrun in the course of fighting against Daesh but had refused to hand over after pushing the terrorists out.

The US had voiced muted opposition to the Kurdish referendum before it was held. But the Kurds seemed to believe that once the vote was held, Washington would be faced with a fait accompli and would come out in support of the Kurdish ambitions to break up Iraq. It did not.

“Nobody stood up with us other than our mountains,” Barzani said bitterly in his speech, standing in front of Kurdish and Iraqi flags.

“Why would Washington want to punish Kurdistan?” he said.

The US has for long worked with the Kurds as its most trusted allies in the region. In neighboring Syria, the US has been regarding Kurdish militants as its best regional partners in a purported fight against Daesh over the objections of NATO ally Turkey.

A handout picture shows Kurdish MPs voting during a session of Kurdistan’s regional parliament on an offer by Masoud Barzani to resign from presidency, in Erbil, on October 29, 2017. (Via AFP)

Barzani, who was largely blamed for an injudicious decision to call the referendum at a time when the Iraqi government was busy fighting Daesh terrorists, said American-supplied weapons had been used against Kurdish militants by the Iraqi forces.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered military operations against Kurdish militants only after they defied several ultimatums to leave seized territory and after the KRG refused to annul the referendum results.

But days later, on Friday, Abadi also ordered a ceasefire to facilitate an agreement on the peaceful handover of all Kurdish border posts to federal forces.

In a statement on that same day, Abadi called Iraqi and Kurdish forces “children of the same country.”

On October 16, the first day of the Iraqi military operations, federal forces retook control of the Kurdish-held city of Kirkuk.

Barzani said the forces in oil-rich Kirkuk, who largely left the Iraqi city on their own, had committed “high treason” for handing over the city without a fight.

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