Brett McGurk, an Obama appointee serving under President Trump, is working in order to ensure that the United States continues to follow Barack Obama’s failed Iraq policy even though the U.S. now has a Republican president.
According to anonymous sources, Mr. McGurk is single-handedly responsible for America’s opposition to Kurdistan’s independence referendum. The sources stress that he stands behind America’s silence in the wake of Iran and its allies invading Kirkuk and attacking Kurdistan. It is time for Mr. Trump to split from Mr. Obama’s footsteps and get a different envoy.
Historically, Mr. Obama’s Iraq strategy was problematic for it envisioned the U.S. withdrawing as quickly as possible from a united Iraq. The fundamental problem with this approach is that Iraq was artificially created by European colonialists, and the only thing that could keep Sunnis, Shias and Kurds living side by side was having a strong dictator in power like Saddam Hussein. Once Mr. Obama withdrew and left behind a united Iraq, the country was condemned to being taken over by the Iranian axis and ISIS.
Mr. Trump claims he is better than Mr. Obama, but so long as he keeps Mr. McGurk in office and follows Mr. Obama’s failed Iraq policy, his policy is no better than Mr. Obama’s. He also fails to recognize that the days in which a dictator controls a united Iraq are over, and any attempt to preserve Iraqi unity will lead to Iran taking over the area.
Indeed, before the referendum, the U.S. government voiced concerns that it was badly timed and asked the Kurds to postpone it until after the Iraqi elections. It is noteworthy that the Kurds had already postponed the referendum due to the struggle against ISIS. With ISIS essentially defeated in Iraq, the Kurds saw no need to postpone it further and proceeded with their referendum. Further delay would strengthen Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi, a politician who is more loyal to Iran than America.
However two weeks before Kurdistan’s referendum, the U.S. suddenly started to lobby against the Kurds. The reason for the American hostility is that it is Mr. McGurk’s policy to re-elect Mr. Abadi at all costs. He does not want anyone to call him a failure who could not protect the unity of Iraq. He wants a united Iraq until his term ends. He fights for his reputation and his power. For this reason, he is not sending the right messages to the White House. Kurdish dissident Sherkoh Abbas added: “Abadi already told Tillerson to get lost. He won’t support the U.S. By weakening the Kurds, McGurk sends a message that strong dictators will control Iraq.”
Indeed, the U.S. stance emboldened Iran and its allies to attack Kirkuk with American weapons while the U.S. stood by as Kurds were forced to flee for their lives. As a result of this American policy, Iran is in the process of taking over all of Iraq. Iran’s influence used to be trade-related, social, spiritual and some undercover political agenda. Now it is all out and above ground. It is critical to note that Iran and its allies who control Kirkuk reject Israel, the Kurds and the U.S. Now, after the brutal crushing of the Kurds, Iran and their allies are determined to wipe out the last traces of Kurdish autonomy, even though the Kurdish leadership is calling for dialogue.
Although the Kurds show peaceful intentions, and Iran and its allies demonstrate the opposite, Mr. McGurk still continues to support the U.S. abandoning the Kurds in favor of Mr. Abadi, despite the fact that it makes zero sense to replace ISIS with its Shia equivalent. In fact, to do so makes all of the Kurdish and American efforts to eradicate ISIS in vain. Even worse, the U.S. under Mr. McGurk’s influence is pressuring Bahrain and Saudi Arabia to work with Mr. Abadi at the expense of the Kurds.
As Turkish journalist Uzay Bulut declared: “This destroys the image of the U.S. as a trustable ally. The U.S. should be against Shia aggression and to do something to stop it for a change.” It is critical to note that Sen. John McCain and many other senators and congressmen stated that if the U.S. has to choose between Mr. Abadi and the Kurds, we must choose our natural allies, the Kurds, because the rest are merely Iranian proxies. As Israeli Ambassador Dore Gold stressed, “The Kurds are an asset to the entire Western alliance.” Therefore, it is time for Mr. McGurk to go. Without U.S. support for the Kurds, they will lose out to Iran.
• Rachel Avraham is a senior media research analyst at the Center for Near East Policy Research and a correspondent for the Israel Resource News Agency. She is the author of “Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab Media” (Gefen Publishing, 2016).
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