MESOP : CALLING FOR WESTERN AID & SUPPORT – Kurdish Official Calls for Defense Support from Western Allies

By Harvey Morris –RUDAW – London – A senior Kurdish official has called on Britain and other Western states to give greater defense and intelligence support to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), to help it secure a 1,000 kilometer border with the self-proclaimed Islamic State.

The appeal came in evidence given in the British Parliament on Tuesday by Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, the KRG’s high representative in the United Kingdom. “Kurdistan is at the frontline against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS),” Rahman told the Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee. “If we are to keep that frontline stable, we need much more assistance.” She said restrictions on the direct supply of defense equipment to the KRG region were hampering the ability of the Peshmerga to confront the threats faced by the Kurdistan Region. “Western countries, including the United States, and Eastern countries are very focused on keeping Iraq as one state and they see defense equipment for Kurdistan as undermining Baghdad,” she said.

Rahman, whose post makes her effectively Kurdistan’s ambassador in London, said the Kurds were Britain’s ally in the fight against terrorism and extremism. However, Britain refused to supply defense items such as electronic jamming equipment to the KRG without end-user certificates issued by the Iraqi government. Baghdad refused to issue such certificates if the equipment was destined for Kurdistan.“Other European governments accept KRG certificates,” she said. “This means that the KRG is procuring these goods elsewhere when we and Britain are in a common fight against terrorism.”Outlining the kind of help the KRG required, Rahman said: “We would welcome intelligence to help us target our response. There are many ways our friends in the West can assist us.”The committee session was the second in a series in which MPs are examining Britain’s relationship with the KRG, and the first since Mosul fell last month to ISIS, which has since changed its name to Islamic State (IS).Asked by Nadhim Zahawi, a Kurdish-born Conservative MP, about Kurdistan’s position on the borderline of a conflict between Sunnis and Shiites, Rahman assured the committee: “We are determined that we will not be dragged into a religious conflict.”

A second witness, Peter Galbraith, a former US diplomat and adviser to the KRG, said recent events meant that Iraq had effectively ceased to exist as a single unified state. “If the state cannot defend itself, Kurdistan must defend itself,” he said. He predicted that 95-98 percent of Kurds would vote for independence in a referendum and that Kurdistan “will declare itself independent sometime in the next year.”

Speaking from the perspective of the US’s first ambassador to Croatia in the 1990s, he said Western countries were in danger of repeating past mistakes in which their attempts to hold together the former Yugoslavia proved more destructive than recognizing the desire of its communities to break free.“It is better to see people have self-determination than keep hold of a state by brutal force,” he said.A third witness, Ali Allawi, a former Iraqi trade minister, urged Kurds not to abandon the possibility of establishing a truly federal Iraq. Describing the idea of Kurdish independence as “a leap into the dark,” he said: “The way the world is going a federal system is where we should go, rather than 19th century nationalism.” The British MPs will hold further hearings before preparing a report to Parliament.