US–Kurdish Relations

Obama and Barzani Discuss ISIS and Independence

masoud barzani obama barack white house

Kurdistan Regional Government President Masoud Barzani met with US President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday evening. Barzani met again with VP Biden for a recap meeting on Wednesday morning.

In the meetings, the heads of state discussed the direct arming of the Peshmerga against the Islamic State, plans surrounding an independent Kurdistan, and the shared commitment to provide support to the millions of civilians displaced by the violence in the region.

Directly Arming the Kurds

The direct arming of the Peshmerga has been a contentious topic for months. Last week, the U.S. House Armed Services Committee voted to pass the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which proposes mandating that 25 percent of all U.S. military assistance to Iraq next year go directly to the Kurds and to Sunni fighters.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi reportedly complained to V.P. Biden about the NDAA, and the Iraqi parliament voted to reject the proposal.

This week, for the first time, President Barzani made it clear that he did not expect the United States to arm the Peshmerga directly saying, “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.”

Kurdish Independence

On the topic of independence, the Obama administration has repeatedly said that it would like Iraq to remain united and does not at this time support the creation of an independent Kurdish state, long a dream for Iraq’s Kurds. Obama and Biden reiterated that policy in a Tuesday meeting with Barzani, according to a White House statement.

President Barzani, however, held true to the dream of many Kurds. “Certainly the independent Kurdistan is coming,” he said, speaking through a translator at the Atlantic Council event. “It’s a continued process. It will not stop, it will not step back.

Iraq’s unity “is voluntary and not compulsory, so therefore the important thing is for attempts to be made for everyone in Iraq to have that conviction that it would be a voluntary union and not a forced union,” President Barzani said. He added that any changes in Iraq’s make-up should be made peacefully.

[Read more at the Huffington Post]


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