Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton spoke to Breitbart News Daily Sirius XM host Alex Marlow Monday, coming out strongly in support of Iraqi Kurdistan in its bid for independence and criticizing American ties to the Iraqi national government, which he described as “dominated by Iran.”
“I support independence for the Kurds in Iraq. It’s no surprise the State Department opposes that. I think the State Department and the Pentagon are still operating under the assumption you can put Iraq back together again, and you can’t,” Bolton told Marlow.
Bolton condemned America’s putative ally in Baghdad as a sectarian force under the spell of Iran. “The Baghdad government is Shia-dominated and dominated, worse than that, by the mullahs in Tehran,” he said.
The autonomous regional government of Iraqi Kurdistan, in a controversial move, held an independence referendum last month that passed by overwhelming margins among the region’s ethnic Kurdish majority. The sizable Arab and Turkmen minorities largely opposed the move and the government of Iraq and the other regional powers of Iran and Turkey immediately threatened intervention if Iraqi Kurdistan declared independence. The American State Department also condemned the vote with spokeswoman Heather Nauert saying, “We have been very clear from the beginning that we oppose that referendum because we thought it would be destabilizing.”
“[W]e’re friends with the Kurds; we are friends with the central government of Iraq,” Nauert added at the time. “We want to have a stable, unified Iraq.”
Although Iraqi Kurdistan has not yet formally declared independence – insisting the vote was meant to gauge popular support and gain leverage for dialogue on independence with Baghdad – the central government of Iraq quickly made good on its threats and sent troops to the disputed oil-rich city of Kirkuk, home to Kurds, Arabs, and Turkmen. While Kirkuk has never been a traditional part of Iraqi Kurdistan, the Kurdish Peshmerga have controlled it since 2014, when Iraqi troops fled an incoming Islamic State attack. Despite the deployment of “thousands” of Peshmerga fighter, parts of Kirkuk reportedly fell to Iraqi soldiers and Shiite paramilitary forces Monday, sending all sides scrambling in what could be the opening moves of a new ethnic civil war in Iraq.
As Bolton saw it, Baghdad’s invasion of Kirkuk was the product of Iranian meddling. He explained to Marlow:
[In] the battle now going on around Kirkuk, which is defended by Kurdish Peshmerga, [the city is] being attacked by Iraqi government forces and Shia militias dominated by Iran. Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Revolutionary Guards Quds Forces, is actually in the Kirkuk area coordinating the Iran-dominated military effort against the Kurds.
Both sides in Kirkuk, the Peshmerga and the Iraqi Army/Shiite militia coalition, have received large amounts of American munitions. The Trump administration’s decision not to pick sides and threaten to cut off the Iraqi side over the Kirkuk offensive caused Bolton dismay. “I wish we could get through to the White House and say, ‘You should support Kurdish independence,’ because Iran – our enemy in the region – is now attacking Kurds, our best friend. We are doing nothing. It’s a tragedy,” he said, adding:
We continued the Obama administration strategy of aiding the forces of the government of Iraq, which, as I’ve said, sadly, is dominated by Iran. I think we need to get off that kick. The Kurds and Arab forces – non-Iraqi forces – should be what we support against ISIS and we should help the Kurds defend against these Shia militia under the direction of the Ayatollah in Tehran and the president should see that and support the Kurds.
While the international coalition in Iraq declared Monday that it would support neither side in the growing conflagration, the State Department has yet to make a statement on the developing situation.
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