In an exclusive interview with FRANCE 24, Masoud Barzani, president of Iraq’s Kurdistan region, said Kurdish requests from the international coalition for heavy weapons in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) group have not been fully met.
Speaking to FRANCE 24’s Marc Perelman in the autonomous Kurdistan region in northern Iraq, Barzani thanked France and members of the international coalition for its help in the fight against the IS group. But, he noted, the coalition has failed to deliver on the quantity and quality of heavy weapons needed to stop the IS assault in Iraq.
“All the support that we have received so far is not up to the level that is needed,” said Barzani. “The heavy weapons systems that we need, especially in terms of the quality and quantity, for example the APCs (armoured personnel carriers), the helicopters, the artillery we need for a decisive war against them – we have not received these types of weapons.”
When asked why Kurdish fighters, who are on the vanguard of the fight against IS, have not received critical heavy weapons systems, Barzani said he had no answers, only questions. “Is there a ceiling on the heavy weapons systems that we should receive in terms of the quantity and quality? The answer is not very clear to us.”
Barzani’s comments came as Kurdish peshmerga fighters in Syria have been waging a pitched battle against IS for control of the Syrian border town of Kobane. Kurdish fighters, aided by coalition airstrikes, have made progress in recent days, but there have not been significant gains or losses on either side.
“The war is not finished,” explained Barzani. “It’s true that the Islamic State has been weakened, but they have not lost complete capability of attack.”
‘The Kurdish people will decide on their future’
A seasoned Kurdish nationalist commander who has led a long, difficult fight for Kurdish rights in Iraq, Barzani noted that the IS group is the most brutal adversary his people have faced, worse even than former Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein.
“It’s a new war, it’s a new tactic and also it’s an ideological war. These barbaric, horrific terrorists, they don’t spare anything. So this terrorist organisation, yes, it’s the most brutal and barbaric organisation – even if you compare it with the Iraqi regimes that we fought,” he said.
But even as his peshmerga fighters have been battling IS militants in Iraq and Syria, Barzani has made territorial gains in Iraq following the collapse of the Iraqi army against the jihadist onslaught. Kurdish forces captured the oil-rich city of Kirkuk this summer as the Iraqi army fled the area, bolstering the Kurdish administration’s chances for independence.
Speaking to FRANCE 24 months after the fall of Kirkuk though, Barzani refused to be drawn into a discussion on his administration’s next political move. “The Kurdish people will decide on their future,” he maintained. “Nobody will decide on the future of the Kurdish people.”