The leader of Iraq's independence-minded Kurdish population has essentially rejected a formal U.S. plea to help keep the country in one piece, a foreign policy and security analyst told Newsmax TV
In welcoming Secretary of State John Kerry
to "a new reality and a new Iraq" on Tuesday, Massoud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan Regional Government, delivered "a complete rebuke of Kerry's message," retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer, senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research, told "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner.
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Kerry is on a diplomatic mission to Iraq to contain the country's most severe and widespread outbreak of violence since U.S. troops went home in 2011. Sunni insurgents, in a lightning advance that caught both Iraq and the U.S. off guard, have taken control of cities and border crossings, and are battling for control of additional territory against government troops backed by private Shia militias.
The Kurds, meanwhile, have said they will defend their semi-autonomous region using their own military force, known as the Pesh Merga.
Kerry is asking the Kurds — arguably the country's strongest and most stable populace — to help save Iraq from breaking into sectarian pieces.
Under the circumstances, said Shaffer, "I think we have to give up any idea that we're going to come out of the other end of this with a unified Iraq in the form it was in in 2011 when we left."
But Shaffer said the Kurds could be crucial to helping the U.S. secure its local interests, including access to oil.
"I think we'd be well-served — to be totally blunt — to actually work with them since they're the only ones who seem to have a plan in the region," he said.
As for Iraq's Shiite prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, "I think his day has passed," said Shaffer.
Shaffer said the best defense against ISIS, the violent al-Qaida splinter group that is leading the insurgency, will be regional.
"Egypt, Turkey and Saudi Arabia are all Sunni-led governments," said Shaffer. "I think we need to go to them to help put down the ISIS threat."
Shaffer said the U.S. could help nearby countries assemble a NATO-like organization for defending and stabilizing the region.
"It may end up that we all have to accept the partition," he said of whatever form Iraqi territory takes once the fighting is over. "It's just that we should help establish that partition in terms which are favorable to us and our allies."
As to those terms, "This is where … we have to define what our interests are for the American people and for our allies," said Shaffer. "The first thing the president has to do is to be a leader: Say we will not tolerate the ISIS folks from gaining ground and becoming a state. That's the first thing he should say.
Speaking out "doesn't mean that we have to be the ones on the ground preventing [an ISIS state]," said Shaffer. "It means that we have to take a leadership role — not lead from behind, but lead with the others in the region."
Until then, he said, "We'll see chaos, we'll see prices of oil go up, and eventually we'll see another attack of 9/11 scale likely against us by this group or others in that region if we don't pay attention to it now."
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