Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani has indicated that Kurdish forces would be ready to participate in a looming battle to retake the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants. The comments came during a meeting with visiting British Foreign Minister Philip Hammond.
As Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters continue to push back Islamic State militants in the north of the country, Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani thanked visiting British Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond for his country's help in training 3,000 more Peshmerga fighters.
During a joint press conference with Hammond, Barzani said that the Peshmerga were preparing for a battle to retake Iraq's second largest city of Mosul from IS.
He said that the Peshmerga were coordinating operations with Iraqi forces and the U.S.-led coalition in preparation for the battle for Mosul and that there must be an agreement with guarantees, so as to prevent minority groups from being forced from their homes.
Hammond praised Kurdish fighters for their tenacity, noting that they were responsible for many of the victories against the Islamic State group and insisted that the group would ultimately be defeated.
In the wake of Wednesday's declaration of autonomy by Syrian Kurdish leaders, Barzani told Arab media that he believed the historic map of the region inherited from the 1915 Sykes-Picot agreement between France and Britain has finally disintegrated.
He said that the reality on the ground was that borders have changed and that world powers needed to take that into consideration and redraw those borders to coincide with reality.
James Denselow of the London-based Foreign Policy Center noted that calls for Iraqi Kurdish independence were not new, and that he did not think they would change the current situation.
"A lot of international powers that support the Kurds in Iraq support them on the proviso that they play the bigger Iraqi unity game, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the Kurds don't keep asking the question and pushing for the alternative. [Iraqi Kurdistan] is a state in everything but name, with its own language, borders, flag, culture, history, political leadership, etc.,” he said.
Neighboring Turkey, which is locked in a bitter struggle with its own Kurdish minority, has said repeatedly that it opposes an independent Iraqi Kurdish state. Turkish warplanes have repeatedly bombed Kurdish PKK guerrillas based inside Iraqi Kurdish territory in recent weeks.