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UK MP: West must check Iran pushing Iraqis and Kurds towards war

2017/10/13 | 18:10

(Iraq Now News)- ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – A UK parliamentary group is urging Western nations to check what it describes as Iranian influence in Iraq pushing Kurdish and Iraqi parties towards a possible conflict. “The unwarranted aggression of the Shia militia against the Peshmerga in Kirkuk is far less to do with the post-referendum dispute between Iraqis and Kurds than Iran exploiting these divisions for its own ends,” British MP Jack Lopresti, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Kurdistan, warned in a statement published by the group on Friday. Thursday night, some 6,000 additional Peshmerga were deployed to Kirkuk to counter a buildup of Iranian-backed Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi forces.

Kurdish security and government officials had previously issued several warnings of abnormal movements of Iraqi and Hashd forces near the disputed areas of Kirkuk and northern Nineveh province. The escalation has come in the wake of Kurdistan’s independence referendum that saw 92.7 percent support for separation from Iraq. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who is commander-in-chief of the armed forces and nominally in charge of the Hashd al-Shaabi, has said he will not fight the Kurds. “We will not use our army against our people or fight a war against our Kurdish and other citizens,” he told a gathering of Anbar provincial authorities on Thursday. Lopresti, however, said it appears “Abadi is being sidelined” as he sees Iran’s hand behind the “unwarranted aggression” of the Shiite forces against the Peshmerga, noting that Iranian Quds commander Qassem Soleimani has been in Baghdad recently.He called on the UK government to raise the matter at the UN to urge “an immediate halt to offensive military actions” and encourage dialogue between Erbil and Baghdad. “It would be catastrophic for Kurdish/Arab relations were the Iranian proxy militia to use American weapons against our vital allies in the Peshmerga.

It would demonstrate a complete abdication of responsibility to Iranian backed forces that have no interest in a peaceful settlement between Baghdad and Erbil – the key actors in the post-referendum discussions,” Lopresti stated.The British MP is not the only voice calling for Western intervention to check Iranian expansion in a divided Iraq.

Zalmay Khalilzad, former US ambassador to Iraq, called on “active US engagement” to prevent conflict between the Shiite forces and the Peshmerga, spurred on by Iran.  The administration of US President Donald Trump is worried about growing Iranian influence throughout the Middle East.

Trump is set to deliver a speech on Iran, including its compliance with the nuclear deal, on Friday.  On Friday afternoon, Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani called on the international community to intervene to prevent a “new war” between Iraqi and Kurdish forces, a war that he said would have “direct, grave consequences” that would be felt across the Middle East. As of Friday afternoon, the Peshmerga have withdrawn from a few outposts and have fortified their positions in a line of defense they believe can be protected with minimum casualties if conflict does break out in the oil-rich province. 










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