Baghdad had contradictory stances on Erbil bombing

Hoshyar Zebari: Militias target economy of the Kurdistan Region

ERBIL — Hoshyar Zebari, a prominent politician and former Foreign Minister, stated that the ongoing bombardment of Erbil has no connection to the Palestinian issue, as these attacks began before the Gaza war, highlighting the targeting of the region’s economic activity. In his role as a “chief negotiator” with Washington on military relations, Zebari revealed a clause ensuring a full year’s notice for any withdrawal requested by Baghdad.

During an interview on Al-Arabiya monitored by 964media, Zebari discussed the importance of sovereignty for self-respecting nations, requiring an independent national policy for government self-defense. He pointed out simultaneous Iranian bombardments on Idlib, Erbil, and Pakistan, with Pakistan retaliating against Iranian sites, unlike Iraq and Syria, which did not respond, affecting sovereignty.

Zebari expressed existential challenges with the Iraqi state during his tenure as minister, calling for a joint national effort despite the federal government’s claims of security apparatus control and sovereignty. He highlighted the loss of control over factions self-styled as “Islamic Resistance in Iraq,” targeting Iraqi military sites with coalition forces in them, including Erbil’s airport and investment facilities, to paralyze economic life.

The legitimacy of approaching the Security Council, as done for the Gaza war case, was noted by Zebari, though he mentioned conflicting statements regarding Iraq’s request for a session on Iran’s Erbil bombing, with no practical outcome on faction strikes. The government’s failure to clarify the situation internationally was critiqued.

Zebari criticized the government’s contradictory positions following the bombardment. National Security Advisor Bahaa Al-Aaraji’s visit to Erbil and subsequent delegations confirmed the targeted site was a businessman’s home, not an Israeli location as claimed by Iran.

Zebari denied any Mossad activity or presence in Erbil, dismissing it as a pretext by the Islamic Republic to target the region during disputes with America or Israel.

As the primary negotiator on U.S. troop withdrawal between 2008 and 2011, Zebari detailed the Iraq-requested U.S. and UN assistance against ISIS threats, leading to U.S. forces’ return at the Iraqi government’s invitation.

Zebari mentioned U.S. officials’ stance during visits to Erbil and Baghdad, emphasizing tolerance for bombings unless U.S. soldiers were harmed, marking a “red line.” The recent attack killing and injuring about 40 prompted U.S. action against responsible factions, which the Iraqi government should have prevented.

Investigations are needed to determine Iran’s direct involvement in targeting U.S. forces, though its support for factions is not denied. Zebari highlighted the conditional future of U.S. forces on Iraqi national consensus, with some Shiite factions demanding their exit, requiring executive decision and national agreement.

An agreement between Iraq and the U.S. supports Iraqi forces, requiring at least a year’s notice for withdrawal. Zebari refuted factions’ justifications for bombing U.S. bases in Erbil and Syria as part of “Operation Al-Aqsa,” clarifying that these attacks began before the Gaza war and were unrelated to the Palestinian issue.

Zebari called for state institution building and national reconciliation in Iraq to maintain national sovereignty, supporting Prime Minister Sudani’s steps towards authority, sovereignty, and improved services.

He warned of regional escalation and interests pushing for conflict, emphasizing the significant impact of a potential U.S. withdrawal on investment and stability in Iraq, a pivotal location for U.S. presence in the Middle East.

He credited U.S. forces for preventing greater ISIS control in 2014, with ongoing threats in Syria and Iraq, like Diyala and south of Erbil. Despite no security threat from the Kurdistan Region to Iran, Turkey, or Syria, efforts to undermine the region persist.

There is positive dialogues between Erbil and Baghdad on financial entitlements and upcoming regional elections in May. He expressed support for the current government in Baghdad for greater authority, sovereignty, and services.