Struggle Over Kirkuk Puts the U.S. and Iran on the Same Side
Maria Fantappie, senior analyst for Iraq at the International Crisis Group, said, “The United States gave a green light, and that was essential.”
Iran’s goal, she said, was to insert Shiite militias into contested areas, and to divide the Kurds while solidifying Iranian influence over the Iraqi government.
Intentionally or not, the United States seems to have abetted that goal as it pursued its own aim of restoring Iraqi government authority to the disputed Kirkuk region. The United States, officials said, also declined to defend the Kurds to show its displeasure with them for rejecting an American request to cancel a referendum on independence from Iraq.
Supporters of the Kurdish Regional Government, the Kurdish enclave in northern Iraq, said they expected better from the United States after 1,700 Kurdish fighters died helping the Americans fight the Islamic State.
“I don’t want to use the word betrayal,” Vahal Ali, the communications director for the region’s president, said Wednesday, “but we definitely feel the United States has been negligent.”
He said the Kurds were “disappointed at how the United States looked at this.”
“Now they are giving Iraq to Iran as a present,” he added. “That’s as diplomatic as I can be.”
Joshua A. Geltzer, the former senior director for counterterrorism at the National Security Council, noted the irony of helping Iran just as Mr. Trump was threatening to withdraw from the Iran nuclear agreement and assailing the country for sponsoring terrorism.