Iraq's Kurdistan seeks to strengthen relationship with Iran

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Iranian Kurdish Peshmerga members of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of (KDP-Iran) take part in routine military exercises in Koya, 100 kms north of Erbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq, on December 9, 2014. AFP / Safin Hamed

Published Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Iraqi Kurdistan plans to strengthen its relationship with Iran, the prime minister of the semi-autonomous region said on Wednesday in an acknowledgement of the deepening ties between Erbil and Tehran.

Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani said in a statement a new oil deal between Erbil and Baghdad would not impact the Kurdistan Regional Government's ties with Turkey, or its growing partnership with Iran.

Iraq's government reached a formal agreement with Kurdish regional authorities early December after three days of talks in Baghdad covering oil exports and budget payments.

"We will continue to strengthen our relationship with our eastern neighbor Iran," Barzani said in a statement read at a Kurdish oil and gas conference in London. The statement was read by Sir Jeremy Greenstock, the former UK ambassador to the United Nations, after Barzani was unable to attend.

In late August, KRG Massoud Barzani announced that Iran was the first country to arm Iraqi Kurds.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran was the first state to help us... and it provided us with weapons and equipment," Barzani said at a joint news conference at that time with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif.

Militants led by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group launched a major offensive in June that overran large areas of Iraq, pushing Kurdish forces back towards their regional capital of Erbil.

The Kurdish setbacks sparked a campaign of US airstrikes in northern Iraq and an international effort to provide them with arms and ammunition, which have failed to claw back territories from the militants.

Iran has repeatedly announced its readiness to help Iraq counter ISIS, supplying Iraqi Kurds with weapons and sending military advisers to Baghdad, but denied it had deployed ground troops or any involvement in the airstrikes, despite growing reports showing evidence in the involvement.

In early December, The Guardian quoted deputy foreign minister Ebrahim Rahimpour as saying that Iran had conducted strikes against ISIS for "the defense of the interests of our friends in Iraq," but the senior Iranian official later denied the remarks attributed to him.

The Guardian’s alleged attribution came at the same as the US Pentagon affirmed that Iranian fighter jets had bombed ISIS fighters in eastern Iraq, but that the strikes were not coordinated with US forces.

"We have indications that they did indeed fly airstrikes with F-4 Phantoms in the past several days," Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby told AFP.

Meanwhile, Al-Jazeera news channel ran footage of what appeared to be an F-4 fighter, similar to those used by the Iranian air force, attacking targets in the eastern province of Diyala.

Iranian television published early October a rare picture of its elite Quds Force chief, Major General Qassem Suleimani, on an Iraqi battlefield alongside Kurdish peshmerga forces, making him the undisputed “hero” of the battle.

The photo is said to be from Jurf al-Sakhr, area south of Baghdad, where in early November, security forces and pro-government fighters retook the sprawling area of farmland and palm groves nestled along the Euphrates.

Moreover, Iraqi state media claimed in August an Iranian pilot was killed fighting in Iraq, and that several Iranian Su-25 warplanes were in the country.

(Al-Akhbar, Reuters)

Comments

I thought the Kurds were already selling a ton of oil to Israel? Are they the only people on the planet who are friends with Iran and Israel at the same time or is this stupid American wrong?

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