Kurdish leader says more U.S. weapons needed in fight against Islamic State

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    Earlier this week, special correspondent Jane Arraf traveled to Northern Iraq to interview Masoud Barzani.

    She began by asking him about the arms issue.

  • JANE ARRAF, Special Correspondent:

    You have said in the past that the U.S. should be playing perhaps a more active role here. They should be doing more, should be supplying under weapons. Do you still feel that way?

  • PRESIDENT MASOUD BARZANI, Kurdistan Regional Government, Iraq (through interpreter):

    We are satisfied with the air support. We are getting good support, but, in reality, to this present moment, we have the same view as in the past on arming and equipping the Peshmerga forces with the right weapons.

    It's not to the standard we want.


    And there's been a lot of concern in various parts of the world about the role that Iran is playing here, particularly with the militias that it's backing. Do you share that concern?

  • MASOUD BARZANI (through interpreter):

    We have a principle. Wherever we can strike, we're not going to hold back and whoever will take part and help us attack I.S., we will thank them.

    Right now, I don't share that concern if you are asking me about helping to fight and defeat I.S. What happens after that, we can't predict.


    Do you worry that, at some point, the Peshmerga, the Kurdish forces, could end up fighting the Shia militias?

  • MASOUD BARZANI (through interpreter):

    I don't envisage that. Right now, we are in an alliance to fight I.S. I am hoping no one is thinking of that. We never wish to fight with anyone.

    Make no mistake. Whoever is going to attack the region, we will defend ourselves, but, right now, that is unimaginable.


    A lot of this fight now is moving into almost purely Sunni Arab territory, Tikrit, Mosul to come. What role do you see the Peshmerga playing in those fights?

  • MASOUD BARZANI (through interpreter):

    If there's a program to liberate Mosul or anywhere else that is on the doorstep of the Kurdistan region, we can study the situation. In principle, we have no objections in helping the Iraqi military forces, the popular mobilization forces and the Sunni forces.

    If they have a program, we will help and support them, but we are not going to do anything on our own.


    And the Kurds have been through many battles, of course. It's part of your Kurdish history, but this — this enemy, the Islamic State group, seems like nothing that you have battled before. For instance, they have captured 21 of your Peshmerga and they're threatening to behead them on a major Kurdish holiday. How do you — how are you able to confront something like that?

  • MASOUD BARZANI (through interpreter):

    It's true this is a different type of fight to all the others we have fought before. The tactic is different. The style of the fighter is different.

    But the Peshmerga and the Kurdish people have been given the honor of defeating and tarnishing the image of I.S. Of course, it is very sad to see a group of them falling into the hands of I.S. Of course, it is very sad and it hurts me a great deal personally. We will try our utmost to free them. But if that doesn't materialize, we will classify them as martyrs, and the number of our martyrs will increase.


    Just a few months before this came up, before the Islamic State group came in and seized all this territory last year, there was some talk that you would be pushing towards moves for eventual independence.

    Has that all been set aside or pushed back now?

  • MASOUD BARZANI (through interpreter):

    The conflict delayed this process, but the process is still valid. We're not going to abandon it. We're going to do it through dialogue.

    We will talk with Baghdad about it. We are not going to challenge people. We are not going to fight with them. But, as I said, the process is still valid, and we're not going to retreat from it. But we need to study. We need to use wisdom. We need to be united. We can't use force. We cannot shed blood.


    Just finally, the Islamic State group and their advance into Iraq and Syria has really changed the course of history in many ways. Do you think it has changed Kurdish history in any sense?

  • MASOUD BARZANI (through interpreter):

    I can't say they changed the course of history, but it strengthened the spirit of defense and sacrifice and the unity of the Kurdish people a great deal.


    President Barzani, thank you so much.


    Thank you.

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