WASHINGTON DC – American Middle Eastern experts asked to advise Congress on the Kurdistan referendum and post-ISIS Iraq are urging the US towards greater political engagement.
Ryan Crocker served as US ambassador to Iraq from 2007 to 2009, at a time when the US had a much greater presence in the country. Now, “sadly, we have not only removed the troops, we’ve ended a serious political engagement there,” he told Rudaw’s Namo Abdulla in Washington.
He said the US is “doing no favours” for anyone in Iraq or the region by criticizing the outcome of the referendum, but should be putting their energies into looking forward, “talking about what we can do to see that the process ahead is a smooth and stable one. That’s where we need to use our influence.”
His advice is for the US to offer to facilitate discussions between Baghdad and Iraq.
Kurdish leaders have stressed both before and after the vote that the referendum is a tool to achieve independence but not a declaration of separation from Iraq. Sovereignty will come only through negotiations with Baghdad, they have stated.
The central government, however, has so far refused to sit down at the table with the Kurdish leadership after the vote, demanding that Kurds cancel the result of the referendum as a pre-condition for talks.
Washington has rejected the referendum result and urged all parties to focus on the war against ISIS and stabilization of Iraq post-ISIS.
Dr. Kenneth Pollack, a former CIA analyst and expert on Middle Eastern politics and military affairs, agrees that greater American political engagement in Iraq is required. He believes that after the military defeat of ISIS, a residual American force should remain in the country with a mission that would be “primarily political.”
“Yes, there are military things that it can and should do, but we need to focus on its political role as being the most important of all,” he said.