Saturday, 13 August 2011, 07:55 GMT
Nechirvan Barzani: American forces still needed in Iraq

Vice President of Kurdistan Democratic Party Nechirvan Barzani./ GLOBE PHOTO/ Safin Hamed

This is Globe translation.

Nechirvan Barzani warns of "ethnic cleansing" against the Kurdish people

Vice president of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, Nechirvan Barzani discusses Kurdish leaders' viewpoints on current Iraqi issues in a recent interview with the London-based Asharq Alawsat newspaper.

"Leaders of the Kurdistan Region have already spoken about their stances, obviously, regarding the issue of the possible stay of the U.S. forces. for which Iraqis have sacrificed for many years," said Barzani.

He also said Kurdish leaders deal with this issue regarding the Region as a part of the federal Iraq. He said they had nothing to hide in regard to that issue.

Barzani firmly refuted rumors suggesting that the Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani had allegedly made a speech demanding U.S. forces to be stationed in Kurdistan Region. "In fact, no such speech has occurred," Barzani assured, adding, "The Kurdistan Region president"s attempts regarding this issue remain within the circle of negotiations currently going on among the Iraqi political powers. The President does not have a unilateral stance on this; but the issue will be resolved according to the negotiations among the Iraqi political components. The final decision will depend on the result of the talks among Iraq's political factions."

The KDP vice president also discussed the issue of the alleged U.S. forces' readiness for possible deployment along the Kurdistan Region border to respond to Iranian shelling. "The Iranian bombardments are starting to leave a big impact on the people's lives there. Two years ago, the Americans were present in Iraq actively and the U.S. forces were affording moral, political and military responsibility in our country. At that time, Iran was shelling to test the pulse of the Americans and find out their reactions. But the Americans did not show any reaction toward those bombardments. This encouraged Iran to be more daring in their attacks against Kurdistan's security."

He also added, "Let's be realistic: Kurdistan Region, as a firm principle, is commited to not allowing its land to be used to threaten neighboring countries under any circumstances, whether it is Iran or Turkey. This is a principle we don't break. We have proven in the past to be a factor of stability, not disorder, in the area. The Iranian shelling comes under the excuse of existing military activities of [Free Life Party of Kurdistan] PJAK. These activities are not only found at the shared bordering areas, but they are carried out deep into Iran, as well."

"I say this as frankly as I can, Kurdistan Region completely rejects those operations inside Iran. We think these operations by PJAK do not serve the Kurdish question in Iran. On the contrary, these attacks will further the pressure on the Kurdish people. So, this party has to realize the risk of these actions and to start by laying down its weapons against Iran and instead adopt peaceful political struggle," remarked Barzani.

Barzani also expressed Kurdish leaders' concern about security developments ongoing in the disputed areas, mainly on the continuous attacks on Kurdish residents in Saadiya and Jalawla.

He noted that it is not only the Iraqi government that is responsible for solving the problem of the disputed areas; but even the U.S. shares this responsibility. The U.S. has not taken full responsibility in this. "And we haven't seen any serious steps from the U.S. side to help the Iraqis resolve these problems, whether it is about disputes on Kirkuk or on other areas. The Iraqi leaders, as well as the U.S., should have put this issue as a top priority. The main problem is that we don't find a real and practical will from the Iraqi side for resolving suspended problems between the Region and Baghdad. We think if the will for resolving problems does not exist, it will make no difference if the U.S. forces stay or go. A day must come for those forces to leave. What is important is that the Iraqi leaders must have a real will for solving the suspended problems so as to give a live example of peaceful coexistence among the Iraqi components of Kurds, Arabs, Turkmens and others." He further added, "Let me be honest with you, unfortunately, we haven't seen such a will from the Iraqi leaders yet. On the contrary, we see attacks on the Kurdish residents increase, particularly in Jalawla and Saadiya. This, definitely, proves the absence of that will. What goes on there is a complete and organized operation of ethnic cleansing targeted against the Kurds there through systematic terror, provocations, and crimes of murder and displacement that are supported by the Iraqi army. We expected the army, after the fall of the dictatorship, to change to a national army that represents all Iraqis, and not to become a part of the process of intimidating innocent people."

Regarding repeated requests by people in those areas to send Peshmarga forces to protect them, Barzani said, "We are now working on a national dialogue through which we should be able to tackle the problems in those areas. The Kurdistan Regional Government's minister of Interior and Peshmarga Affairs have sent a request for an urgent meeting of the High Security Ministerial Committee which involves the Iraqi Defense and Interior ministers. This is exclusively to discuss the issue of terrorist threats in Jalawla and Saadiya. We will wait for the outcome of that meeting. In case the situation remains as it is now, then the Kurdistan Region leaders will take any necessary steps to protect our people in those areas."