Retired US General: New Trump administration to support Iraqi Kurds

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US President Donald Trump (R), Kurdish President Barzani (L) with Peshmerga officers. File photo

ARA News

Erbil – Ernie Audino, a retired Brigadier General in the United States Army, told ARA News on the sidelines of a conference in Erbil that the President-elect Donald Trump’s picks for cabinet show that it will most likely benefit the Iraqi Kurds, although it’s unclear if it will benefit the Kurds in Syria.

Trump must choose all his Cabinet members and appointments by his Jan. 20, 2017, inauguration.

Audino was a Chief Combat Advisor embedded in 3rd Brigade, 4th Division that was formed by the Kurdish Peshmerga units to conduct counterinsurgency operations in Balad, Kirkuk and along the Iranian border. He is a Retired Brigadier General and regularly visits the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

“The question what it might means for future of Kurdistan: First the Trump administration has already announced several of its picks for the close cabinet. Knowing some of the folks involved in this, I must say across the board he has chosen scholar practitioners,” Audino told ARA News. “These guys are honest about situation. This is always first order of business,” he said about Donald Trump’s decision to pick Lt Gen Michael Flynn as his most senior national security aide and General James N. Mattis as US Secretary of Defence.

Furthermore, he said the Trump’s decision to name Rex W. Tillerson as US Secretary of State, and John Bolton as a potential deputy could be a dream team for the Iraqi Kurds.

In 2011, Tillerson signed a deal directly with the Kurdish government for five oil fields in Iraq’s autonomous region of Kurdistan despite opposition from Baghdad.

“I think this is tremendous potential pick for Kurdistan,” Audino said. “In my opinion, a strong Kurdistan is in the strategic interest of the United States and the West.”

“The Kurds are constrained fiscally because Baghdad has cut off 17 per cent of the required constitutionally required funds and constrains shipping Kurdish oil out of the country,” he said.

Audino added that the Obama administration has never stepped forward and supported the Kurds to export oil. “So if the Secretary of State is the former CEO of Exxon he might pay attention to Kurdish oil. I think that’s a reasonable assumption,” he said. “And if John Bolton is his deputy, that would be a powerful combination, in addition to being a realist and being a foreign policy expert as well. He has also come out previously discussing the merits of an independent Kurdistan. There you have a dynamic duo.”

However, the retired US general said it is unknown how the new administration will approach the Kurds in Syria. “(…) the jury is still out how this administration will approach the Kurdish situation in Rojava,” Audino told ARA News. “But I think he has no choice to recognize the combat power of the Kurds in Syria.”

The retired general didn’t think John Bolton would change his positions such as former senator Joe Biden who called for dividing Iraq when he was still a senator in 2006, but called for Iraqi unity while vice president. “John Bolton has a much deeper understanding of foreign policy and geostrategics. Joe Biden had no idea what he was saying and he was parroting Peter Galbraith’s idea about a division of Iraq,” Audino said.

Washington-based Middle East researcher at the Centre for a New American Security, Nicholas Heras, told ARA News that the new administration will most likely benefit the Iraqi Kurds.

“The US sees Iraqi Kurdistan as an effective partner in regard to the global counter-terrorism campaign,” Heras said. “The Trump administration will most likely view Kurdistan through that lens. For the cause of Iraqi Kurdistan’s independence, there is one man who has more power than President Trump will have to allow that to happen: [Turkish president] Erdogan,” he added.

“If Erdogan sees the benefit of having an independent, and weak, Iraqi Kurdish state as a client of Turkey, and as a buffer against the Arabs and the Iranians, it will happen. The Trump administration would likely not stand in the way of Iraqi Kurdish independence,” Heras concluded.

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News 

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