News / Middle East

Kerry Urges Iraqi Kurds to Band With Baghdad

Kerry Appeals for Unity in Iraqi
Al Pessin
June 24, 2014 7:44 PM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry appealed to Kurdish regional leaders in northern Iraq Tuesday to work with their rivals in Baghdad to defeat a new Sunni insurgency and hold the country together. VOA’s Al Pessin is monitoring developments from London.
Watch related video report by VOA's Al Pessin from London.
VOA News

Secretary of State John Kerry met Tuesday with Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani in a bid to convince him to close ranks with the government in Baghdad to fend off an insurgency by Sunni militants.  

It was the secretary's final round of diplomacy with Iraqi leaders before leaving the country.

Kerry's visit to Iraqi Kurdistan came amid a new round of conflicting reports that Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant [ISIL] militants had captured Iraq's largest oil refinery at Beiji, north of Tikrit.  

VOA could not independently confirm who is in control of Beiji.

Amateur video showed the aftermath of a bombing raid over the militant-controlled Iraqi border town of Qaim, facing Syria. Witnesses claim Syrian warplanes bombed militant positions from the air.  

Beiji oil refinery, IraqBeiji oil refinery, Iraq

In Kurdistan, Kerry thanked the Kurdish leader for helping battle the militants during their meeting. He went on to stress that resolving the current conflict revolves around forming an inclusive new government in Baghdad.

“As everybody knows, this is a very critical time for Iraq as a whole and the government formation challenge is the central challenge that we face," Kerry said. "In recent days the security cooperation between the forces here in the Kurdish area has been really critical in helping to draw a line with respect to ISIL and also to provide some support to the Iraqi security forces.”

But Barzani was cautious about cooperating with the Baghdad forces, saying it was impossible to fight the militants, "without a clear future, a complete agreement and a complete political solution."

Kerry told U.S. broadcaster CBS that President Barack Obama is not planning to help the government of Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki with air support, due to the lack of political consensus among Iraqi leaders.  He said it would be a "total act of irresponsibility" for the president to order air strikes when the current Iraqi government is not unified.

US military's assessment

The first of the 300 military advisers U.S. President Barack Obama has committed to help Iraq counter a Sunni militant surge have begun their assessment mission.

Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said two special operations teams -- a total of 40 personnel already working in Iraq -- started their work on Tuesday.

He said an additional 90 troops, flown in by the U.S. Central Command, are now in the Iraqi capital to set up a new Baghdad joint operations center.

Another four teams will arrive within the next few days, bringing the total number of U.S. personnel to nearly 200.

The United States also is conducting air surveillance over Iraq, with 30 to 35 flights a day to help gain better insight about the security situation on the ground as Iraqi troops battle the fast-moving insurgency.

The advance of the Sunni militants, ISIL, has sparked a crisis in Iraq.
Al-Maliki meeting

Secretary Kerry sits with Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki before meeting in Baghdad, June 22-27, 2014.Secretary Kerry sits with Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki before meeting in Baghdad, June 22-27, 2014.
Secretary Kerry sits with Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki before meeting in Baghdad, June 22-27, 2014.
Secretary Kerry sits with Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki before meeting in Baghdad, June 22-27, 2014.

On Monday, Kerry met with al-Maliki, a key Shi'ite cleric and the two highest-ranking Sunni lawmakers.
He said Monday Iraqi leaders assured him they would meet a July 1 deadline to start forming a new government, but he warned the Iraqis they must act quickly to block the advance of the militants.
The prime minister's office said al-Maliki told Kerry that the insurgents' advance "represents a threat not only to Iraq but to regional and international peace." The Iraqi leader called for U.S. air strikes against the insurgents, which the U.S. is considering.
The U.S. has not publicly called for Maliki to leave office, but has repeatedly pushed him to create a government that includes more authority for Sunnis and Kurds.
After his stop in Iraq, Kerry is due to travel to Brussels for a meeting of NATO foreign ministers, and State Department officials say they expect to have discussions there with European partners about the situation in Iraq.

Click here to read Secretary Kerry's comments in Baghdad, June 23, 2014.

Edward Yeranian contributed to this report from Cairo.

  • A Shi'ite volunteer who joined the Iraqi army to fight against predominantly Sunni militants from the radical Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant looks on during a parade in Kanaan, Iraq, June 26, 2014.
  • Shi'ite volunteers who joined the Iraqi army to fight against predominantly Sunni militants from the radical Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant take part in a parade in Kanaan, Iraq, June 26, 2014.
  • Fleeing Iraqi citizens from Mosul and other northern towns sit in a pick up truck between Mosul and Irbil, northern Iraq, June 25, 2014.
  • An Iraqi woman who fled her village holds her daughter near a Kurdish checkpoint, in the Khazer area between Mosul and Irbil, northern Iraq, June 26, 2014.
  • Members of the Iraqi security forces take their positions during an intensive security deployment west of Baghdad, June 24, 2014.
  • Members of Iraqi security forces take their positions along a road during an intensive security deployment west of Baghdad, June 24, 2014.
  • A military convoy drives towards Kirkuk, to reinforce Kurdish Peshmerga troops, Iraq, June 24, 2014.
  • Kurdish regional President Massoud Barzani listens to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry during a meeting at the presidential palace in Irbil, Iraq, June 24, 2014.
  • Kurdish security forces take their positions at a checkpoint on a highway between the Iraqi city of Mosul and the Kurdish city of Irbil, in Khazer, northern Iraq, June 24, 2014.
  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Baghdad, June 23, 2014.
  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks with Sayyed Amar Al-Hakim, head of Supreme Islamic Council, during a meeting in Baghdad, June 23, 2014.
  • A fighter with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant distributes a copy of the Quran, Islam's holy book, to a driver in central northern city of Mosul, Iraq, June 22, 2014.

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Comment Sorting
by: Azad Dewani from: United Kingdom
June 25, 2014 12:41 PM
We are fed up with this support of the US for the status quo, while we try to say that we seek strong relations with the West. It is wise that the US administration considers an Independent Kurdish state. This much more productive than saving the ass of Iraqi central government which was has no chance to survive. The US already mastered the Iraqi government and military. Iraq is not homogeneous country. It was created by Great Britain who appointed it ruthless rulers and this is the result of long term injustice. Anyway, it is over now. Unless the US managed to revive it for another while!

by: oldlalmb from: Guangzhou
June 25, 2014 6:50 AM
The US’ army had won all battles before they retreated from Irag,whereas the US government lost the war of Irag.Man proposes,God disposes.

by: meanbill from: USA
June 24, 2014 10:49 PM
TRUTH BE TOLD -- The Kurds form a ethnic nationalistic independent State, with a shared heritage and ethnic ancestry, and they are neither Iraqis, Syrians, or Turks, and are Sunni and Shia Muslims and other different religions, and they are the enemies of the Sunni (ISIL) Muslims who would instantly kill them... The Kurds will fight the (ISIL) no matter what, or die... they have no other choice.

by: Remo from: Kernizi
June 24, 2014 10:36 PM
Kurds are not Arabic both linguistically and racially and live in a geographically well defined region of Iraq. The Shia and Sunni Arabs have most of the country's oil reserves between themselves and if shared fairly by Baghdad then could result in equally well off independent states. An independent Kurdistan can not deprive Iraqis of anything other than lessening of chaos in that part of the world.

Without independence Kurds will be at the mercy of Baghdad that can strangle aspiration of this young secular democracy. Baghdad's employment of highly paid western lawyers to deem Kurdish oil exports illegal must be countered by the UN/USA as bullying, illegitimate and must come to an end. Baghdad owes Kurds compensation for Saddam's gassing of Kurdish civilians in 1988. Iraqis have no tradition of democracy therefore highly doubtful that they can live in peace with each other. I see more stability with an independent Kurdistan.

by: Don from: Ontario
June 24, 2014 2:55 PM
Looks like the Kurds are looking at the chaos as an opportunity to break away from Iraq . They don't have to worry about the Iraq army that can't fight. They have wanted to be their own nation for some time now .

by: harry from: australia
June 24, 2014 2:52 PM
Exactly who is supporting ISIS.I dont believe it is just individuals but states as well.All the lives and money spent on Iraq is laid to waste with the scenario of worse things to come.The American Congress should have never given the authority to Bush to invade Iraq.That act alone has led this whole region to be unstable.Why not let Iran sort it out.Afterall they support Hezbollah in Lebanon and Assad in Syria.
In Response

by: meanbill from: USA
June 24, 2014 10:36 PM
IN REBUTTAL? -- The Sunni Muslim "Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) is a religious Jihad call to arms, led by the "Emir of the Believers" al-Baghdadi who was a Sunni Muslim teacher, who's goal it is, to return the Sunni Muslim Caliphate... (the (ISIL) are not terrorists, but a Sunni Muslim religious sect)..

The Sunni Muslim "Emir of the Believers" al-Baghdadi considers the Shia Muslims "the Filthy One's" and wants them wiped off the earth, and under the (ISIL) Jihad, they can deliver Sunni Muslim Jihad instant justice against the infidels, the unclean, and the filthy one's, without following regular Islamic laws...

BELIEVE IT -- Not one single US military man or woman was killed or wounded fighting for Iraq or the Iraqi people... -- Those US military men or women who were killed in Iraq, were killed or wounded when the US invaded Iraq, looking for the "Weapons of Mass Destruction" that the US Secretary of State Colin Powell convinced the UN, the world, and Bush, (with fabricated and falsified evidence), that Saddam had the (WMD), and was ready to use them against his neighbors.... convincing Bush and others to invade Iraq, and they didn't invade Iraq to free Iraqis, or democracy to them.... REALLY

by: Godwin from: Nigeria
June 24, 2014 12:11 PM
All I have here is a poser, a query and more questions – don’t think I have the answers in case anyone out there has them. First, is USA at crossroads in Iraq? How could it possibly settle the quagmire to strike a balance in its interests in Saudi Arabia and at the same time assure Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that it wants genuine friendship? Second, between Sunni and Shia islamists, who does USA prefer?

Third, is islam a religion of peace, and where in the world can someone tell me where Islamic or islam-dominated country is at peace with itself and/or neighbors? Fourth, if islam is truly a religion of peace (a peaceful religion) with all the violence it is spreading everywhere, what is the true definition of peace? Fifth, if peace in the world is the model we have from islam in Nigeria, Egypt, Syria, Libya, Pakistan, India, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Qatar, Bahrain, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, etc., should the world truly desire peace?

But if I have an additional comment to make, it will border on the show of shame and weakness at Washington once again in not being able to project the superpower ability to stand up on its feet in Iraq. Now Obama is listening to Khamenei in Iran who is trying to dictate proceedings and I believe Obama would gladly respond “yes sir” to his command from Tehran. Just imagine a world where the superpowers flex muscles against one another but get easily licked by minnows - like Syria, Iran, and now Iraq - all for the sake of Iran
In Response

by: ali abba from: mew york
June 24, 2014 1:28 PM
They continue considering Islam is a peaceful religion until the whole world turn to be zoo. Jihadist can blow themselves for the sake of God.

by: Ali baba from: new york
June 24, 2014 5:04 AM
Kerry is living in a fantasy. political reform, democracy ,freedom are not the elements that Arab conduct its business. ISIL has created because we have a case of failure to understand .American failed to understand that Arab used the rule of Deseret where the strong take advantage of weak. Muslim fooled the western countries and build terrorist organization that brain washed all Muslim and convince the Muslim that Jihad is way of life.

They spread in Europe and America and recruited Jihadist and with the help of local Muslim community .They are able to build an army of thousands psychopath whom are roaming in Syria and Iraq . they slaughter people like a sheep, raping woman ,force people to flee.

Then the American politician wake up from their fantasy and finally understand that ISIl is a threat . Where the local enforcement in Europe and America where these people produce a video about the necessity of Jihad and recruited Somali and Arab to commit terrorist act by blowing them selves. Perhaps the Arab organization has money and lawyer whom protect these thugs . and plan in secret for this vicious plan

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