United States Senator Marco Rubio criticized President Donald Trump’s administration for not having a strategy to support the Iraqi Kurds.
Mr Rubio, a member of Republican Party representing Florida, told Kurdistan 24 news agency on Monday that he wanted to know Washington’s plan in regards to the conflict brewing between the Iraqi government and the largely autonomous Kurdistan Region.
“I think Iran, working through these [Shia] militias, has achieved its objective, which is to divide the Kurds and grow in influence and power at the expense of America and our allies,” Rubio told K24.
“I think it’s important that we have a strategy that shows our continued commitment to the Kurdish people.”
The Kurdish military wing, known at the Peshmerga, have been instrumental in the fight against Daesh (IS) militants in Iraq. Their forces participated in the Mosul offensive that started in October of 2016, and have pushed militants out of northwest areas.
When so-called Islamic State took large swathes of territory in 2014 across northern Syria and northwest and western Iraq, Kurdish forces held on to key positions, including oil fields around Kirkuk ,while US-armed and trained Iraqi troops fled many posts.
Marco Rubio is a top Republican senator, sitting on both the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Select Committee on Intelligence.
He aligns with Mr Trump with being against the nuclear non-proliferation deal with Iran signed under former US President Barack Obama’s administration.
The multilateral bargain allows for sanctions to be gradually lifted off Iran if they follow through on their agreement not to work towards nuclear weapon technology.
Critics like Rubio see this as a way for Iran to continue alleged state-funded militants, with the senator describing the country’s government as “the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism.”
Rubio explained that Kurdish Regional Government President Masoud Barzani to seeking another turn at the helm of the Iraqi Kurdish leadership was a result of the Iranian mission to “divide the Kurds against each other.”
The senator told K24 that the Iranians look “to drive us out and become more powerful at our expense, and this is part of their strategy.”
Barzani, and the majority Kurdistan Democratic Party, held an independence referendum on Sept 25 of this year that gave an overwhelming mandate for the Kurdistan Region to separate from the central government in Baghdad.
However, the Iraqi leadership deemed the referendum and its results illegal and started a military offensive against Kurdish disputed positions in territory owned by Baghdad last month.
The United States, which has supported both Iraqi and Kurdish forces against Daesh, has called for calm on both sides. The US warned the Kurds against a referendum previously, saying it would disrupt the fight against Daesh militants.
The KRG are not the only Kurds US-led coalition’s have worked with against Daesh.
In Syria, the Kurdish-majority Syrian Democratic Forces are the most effective fighting force against so-called Islamic State, having just recently re-captured the militant’s de facto capital of Raqqa on Oct 17.
The SDF are supported by the US-led coalition in Syria against Daesh.
More details to follow. With files from Kurdistan 24. Image 1 of Marco Rubio at a Conservative Political Action Conference on Feb 27, 2015 from Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons.