MESOP : NO FUTURE WITH IRAN ! – Iran Wants Return to Kurdish-Shiite Alliance, Says KRG’s Tehran Envoy

By Nawzad Mahmoud 10/7/2014 – RUDAW – SULAIMANI, Kurdistan Region – Tehran would like to see Iraq’s Kurds and Sunnis return to their alliance with the ruling Shiite majority, the Kurdistan Region representative in Iran said, adding that Erbil should “not be in a rush to declare independence.”

Iranian authorities “prefer that Kurds strike a political balance in Iraq and to participate in the next Iraqi government,” said Nazim Dabagh, who represents the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iran and is a member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), a major Kurdish party backed by Tehran.He said the Iranians “support a Kurdish-Shiite alliance and back Sunnis who supports the Iraqi government.”

Iran has been one of the main backers of the embattled Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite whose neglect of the country’s large Sunni and Kurdish minorities is largely blamed for Iraq’s current turmoil. A third of the country has been taken over by jihadi-led insurgents who have ignited a Sunni rebellion against Baghdad, while the autonomous Kurds have announced plans for a referendum to decide on independence from Iraq.Iran is opposed to Kurdish independence in Iraq, as are the United States and other countries.

Kurdish officials have reported pressure by Iran to have the Kurds step into the fight against the militants, who include the Islamic State (IS).

“Until now the Iranians insist on having Peshmerga forces fight the ISIS and coordinate with the Iraqi army,” said a senior source from one of the main Kurdish political parties. “Several times Iranian delegations have visited the Kurdistan Region for the same purpose of convincing the Kurdish leadership,” he said. One such delegation is reportedly in Kurdistan now, meeting with officials and party members to try and get the Kurds to step up the fight against militants who have vowed to march on Baghdad and overthrow the Shiite government.The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), which has deployed forces in Kurdish-populated areas outside its official borders, has said it will only defend against IS attacks, but is not going on the defensive against militants who have captured about a third of Iraq.

Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani has asked the Kurds’ own parliament to set a date for an independence vote. Dabagh warned that Erbil should not rush into declaring statehood.

“Maybe the time is not right to declare independence, because the issue needs preparation and we should not rush it,” he said, echoing what is the Iranian stance.Dabagh added that Iran had not declared a position on independence because Erbil had not made a formal announcement. But he noted that both of Kurdistan’s neighbors, Iran and Turkey, were opposed to a break-up of Iraq.

“Iranian authorities believe that there should not be any external interference in the internal affairs of Iraq,” Dabagh said. “Therefore, they are not supporting any side and say it is Iraq’s internal affair.”

Despite Dabagh’s comments, Iran is widely reported to be supplying arms, troops and intelligence to Maliki’s government, together with Syria and Russia.While other countries, including the United States, have soured on the idea of the premier remaining for a third term in office, Dabagh said Iran believed that choosing the next prime minister was an internal Iraqi affair.“Iran reiterates that the issue of selecting the next prime minister is an Iraqi affair. Iran believes that the Shiite coalition should finalize the issue of selecting the prime Minister. Iran has not made its decision yet.”The Kurdistan Region shares a 470-kilometer border with Iran, which exercises immense influence across Iraq.Dabagh said that, despite the turmoil in Iraq and the Kurdish stance which is opposed by Iran, Tehran-Erbil relations remain “normal.” “I have not been informed by the KRG department of foreign relations of any dissatisfaction with Iran’s position towards the Kurdistan Region,” Dabagh said.