Iraqi Kurdistan president hits out at Iran, militias it backs

Barzani says Kurdistan region does not have any ties with Israel

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Iraqi Kurdistan President Nechirvan Barzani vehemently rejected accusations of Erbil hosting spy bases for Israel’s Mossad and said that if there were any evidence, then Iran would have presented it to Iraq.

Barzani also slammed the actions of Iran-backed militias in the region, calling for an end to their disruptive behavior.

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“Are there any guarantees that that [Iran-backed militias] will not threaten Kurdistan or Iraq if the Defeat-ISIS Coalition withdraws?” he asked during an interview with Al Hadath.

Barzani pointed to attacks on the Peshmerga and on Erbil. In December, the “Islamic Resistance in Iraq” said it had attacked an “occupation base.”

And last month, Iran claimed an attack on an alleged spy headquarters for the Mossad in Kurdistan.

“We thought we had good relations with Iran, and we consider Iran an important neighbor to us,” he said.

“When Iran bombed us with cruise missiles, is that a friend?” Barzani asked, adding that killing civilians was unacceptable.

He also batted down allegations that the Kurdistan region was any threat to Iran. “We are fully committed to the Iraqi state, and we do not have any ties with Israel,” Barzani said while denying that there were any Mossad bases in the region.

“If Iranian claims were true, they would have presented their evidence to Baghdad to prove the presence of Mossad,” Barzani said. There have been no contacts between the Kurdistan region and Iran since the January attacks, he said.

US forces are helpful

Pressure has been increasing on Washington to withdraw its troops from Iraq, especially following US military operations that killed at least two Iran-backed Iraqi militia commanders in Baghdad this year.

The US was responding to the over 170 attacks by pro-Iran militias against American troops in Iraq, Syria, and Jordan. The most recent attack killed three American soldiers and wounded dozens more.

After the latest US strike killed Abu Baqir al-Saadi, who was reportedly responsible for Kata’ib Hezbollah’s drone program, Iraq’s top officials quickly condemned the US and accused Washington of “irresponsibly” hindering the start of bilateral talks to discuss the future of US-led anti-ISIS troops in the country.

Barzani said the US troop presence in Iraq should be compared to the time when there were no US forces in the country in reference to the resurgence of ISIS following the US withdrawal in 2011.

“Daesh poses a big threat to Iraq and to Syria,” he said, using the Arabic word for ISIS.

As for the presence of US-led Coalition troops, Barzani said Kurdistan would decide on their future in tandem with the Iraqi government.

He also admitted that the Kurdistan region could not counter the current threats it faced alone. “The region’s fears are a result of doubts that the Bagdad will be able to protect it,” Barzani said.

And he called on Iraqi militias to allow the Iraqi prime minister to carry out his duties as the commander-in-chief of Iraq’s armed forces.

Read more: US offers to boost security ties with Iraq after Iran strike

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