US–Kurdish Relations

In Retaking Mosul, Barzanis Offer Balanced Strategy

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Trudy Rubin, a columnist and editorial-board member for the Philadelphia Inquirer traveled to Iraqi Kurdistan to interview KRG President Masoud Barzani and his son, Masrour Barzani, who is the Chancellor of the Kurdistan Region Security Council.

The Barzanis discussed their balanced strategy for retaking Mosul, particularly the role of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Peshmerga forces, and partnership with foreign forces such as the United States and Iran.

The President and Chancellor stressed their gratitude for American airstrikes and the close relationship between Kurdish and U.S. forces, citing the “extraordinarily good coordination” between the Peshmerga and coalition forces in calling in airstrikes against ISIS targets. Masrour Barzani emphasized that similar coordination would be essential for all participants in a Mosul offensive.

A Balanced Approach to Mosul

In the impending Mosul offensive, the Kurds have been reluctant to invade the heart of Mosul, because it is a historically Sunni Arab city. This sensitivity to religion is something that is new to the region.

The Barzanis would have liked the Iraqi Army to play a leading role in Mosul, but the Iraqi armed forces virtually collapsed when ISIS invaded last year. The Iraqi Army is being retrained by U.S. and other coalition forces, but no one knows when enough revamped brigades will be available for Mosul.

The Kurdish leaders have also made it clear that Iranian-backed Shiite militias are not the right force to liberate Mosul (in the battle for the Sunni city of Tikrit they burned and looted Sunni homes). While the Shiite militias are “good fighters,” Barzani pointed out that they don’t have a central command, and therefore lack a vital component for success.

Success in Mosul will depend on the proper balance of all the players, including Peshmerga, Shiite militia, Iraqi army and U.S.-led coalition forces. Said Barzani, “The creation of a joint cooperation center is not that difficult, but if the forces on the ground don’t cooperate, it won’t produce the same results.”

[Read more at The Philadelphia Inquirer]

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