Masoud Barzani, President of the autonomous Kurdish Region of Iraq- KRG, sent an urgent message to US President Barack Obama last week, bursting with resentment.
He demanded restitution for the large-scale $11 billion arms deal Washington was about to conclude with the Iraqi government headed by the Shiite Nouri al-Maliki. The Iraqi army is to receive F-16 fighter jets, M1A1 Abrams main battle tanks, cannons, armored personnel carriers, body armor, helmets, ammunition trailers and sport utility vehicles, and American instructors to train the Iraqi military in their use. Therefore, the United States should provide the Kurdish Peshmerga army with enough arms to stand up to the American arsenal on its way to Baghdad, Barzani pointed out.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources in Washington report that the Obama administration turned the Kurdish request down. In Irbil, President Barzani reported bitterly to his government that the US president had decided to arm Iran's agent in Baghdad with the wherewithal for conquering Kurdistan and "we will have to fight."
His first step was to send high-ranking Kurdish emissaries around Middle Eastern and Gulf capitals to solicit diplomatic and military aid.
Kurdish leaders feel they are the victims of a serious American betrayal.
Irbil counted on Washington's support after the US exited Iraq
One of the only lasting gains the US bequeathed Iraq in its eight-year presence in Kurdish eyes was the settlement of the long Kurdish problem by sponsoring the creation of an autonomous republic in the north. Throughout the war, the republic remained the only relatively calm and trouble-free part of the Iraq.
Furthermore, the American military could always count on the loyalty of Kurdish leaders and five million inhabitants.
The Kurds received the impression from former President George W. Bush and President Obama alike that, in any upheavals besetting the country, Kurdistan would be treated as a key US anchor in Iraq and the Kurdish administration in Irbil would continue to enjoy Washington's support after US troops ended their military mission there.
All that has changed, Barzani complains: The Americans say bluntly that behind Maliki's back, they will neither help us nor give us the arms to defend ourselves, so leaving the Kurds once again easy prey for Baghdad.
In a year or two, therefore, Al Maliki and his army will be in a position to use the new American arsenal for invading Kurdistan, conquering Kirkuk and Mosul and their oil fields and disbanding the Peshmerga and the Kurdish republic.
Maliki accused of cutting off oil receipts to Kurds
The Kurds offer three examples of the Iraqi prime minister's blatant bad faith toward their republic:
1. Baghdad and Irbil are bound by an accord which awards the KRG payment for the Iraqi oil that flowing via Kurdistan to Turkey and onward to Europe. The Kurds must also to be paid for the oil produced at the Kirkuk and Mosul oilfields. All receipts must be transferred to Baghdad for the government to compute the value of the produced and exported oil and deduct 17 percent owed to Kurdistan under the accord.
However, Al-Maliki has just trashed the agreement, say Kurdish leaders. He has stopped the transfer of the commission due their government and imposed an economic embargo on the KRG in order to cripple its economy and bring to collapse.
2. Whereas all units of the regular Iraqi army commanded from Baghdad have been issued with new equipment, training and facilities, the two Kurdish brigades have pointedly received nothing.
3. Intelligence has reached Irbil that the Iraqi army is training units in preparation for the specific mission of fighting the Kurdish Peshmerga.
Having lost faith in the Obama administration, Kurdish leaders are seeking salvation in two quarters: Turkey and the American oil companies which won franchises from Irbil to drill new wells in Kurdistan, the most important of which is Exxon.
But outside Iraq, especially in the Persian Gulf, the Kurdish experience has raised anew questions about the America's reliability for its allies. The oil emirs are wondering how far they can trust President Obama's policies on Iran.