TEL AVIV – Iraqi Kurdistan’s warnings that it could face another genocide at the hands of the growing alliance between Iraq and Iranian forces in the region if the West continues to ignore its predicament are legitimate, an expert on Islamic terror said on Wednesday.
“There is a great fear among the Kurds that they could face another genocide at the hands of the Iraqi government and the Shia militia forces backed by Iran,” Julie Lenarz, the director of London-based think tank Human Security Centre, said on a call organized by advocacy group The Israel Project.
Lenarz blasted President Donald Trump for remaining neutral on Kurdistan’s plight in the face of ongoing Iran-backed attacks which have so far cost the Kurdish Regional Government nearly half its territory.
“Iran is laughing while a longterm U.S. ally [Kurdistan] is humiliated and defeated,” she said.
Lenarz’s remarks came hours after the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) released a statement that “after defeating the Islamic State, Kurds are now being drawn into a new wave of sectarian violence by certain radical Shia armed groups that want to impose themselves.”
“If the United Nations, Iraq and the U.S. do not gain control of the situation, the flames of sectarian conflict might lead to the risk of a Kurdish genocide in the Kurdistani disputed areas,” the PUK said, adding that thousands of civilians were in need of humanitarian assistance following the fall of Kirkuk to Iraqi and Shia forces last week. Iranian General Qassam Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), was in Iraqi Kurdistan at the time and was reported to have pushed the Kurds to withdraw from Kirkuk under threat.
“It’s hard to overstate what the Iranians have pulled off over the last two weeks,” Lenarz said. “By denying the clear evidence of Shia militia activities on the ground, and by abandoning the Kurds, Washington effectively legitimized Soleimani’s scheme.”
In a separate interview last week, Lenarz warned that without Kurdistan, Iran’s influence would continue to spread unchecked in the region.
“This is an Iranian plot to complete its regional hegemony. Kurdistan remains a bulwark against Iran and religious extremism. America must choose between Iran and Kurdistan,” she told Israel National News.
“Iran’s most powerful commanders are in South Kirkuk. They are clearly running operations on the ground. On a micro level this is Kurds vs. Baghdad. On a macro level, it’s Iran versus the West and its allies,” she added.
“American equipment is being used by Iranian proxies, including Abrams tanks and Humvees. There are causalities. Iran’s hand in the Kirkuk crisis is undeniable. Powerful commanders Qassem, Kais, Hadi and Abu Mahdi are all in South Kirkuk leading the operation. This is an Iranian plot to complete regional hegemony. Kurdistan remains the bulwark against Iran and religious extremism,” Lenarz said.
Meanwhile, on Thursday, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei met with Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi in Tehran and warned him, “Don’t trust America, [because] it will harm you in the future,” according to state TV.