The following is an editorial by Armstrong Williams.
I’ve been following the Kurds over the past two weeks, trying to understand and make sense of our nation's once loyal and dependable ally. The State Department is useless, and they still have the same Obama administration team players in charge of policy, so there is a growing divide between the White House and the State Department.
The events over the past two days are a devastating blow to the Kurds, and to the reputation of the United States. The Kurds have been a faithful, unwavering ally since 1991-92 when we first arrived in Northern Iraq. They were instrumental in crafting the Iraqi constitution and getting it passed by the parliament in 2004. They are exercising their rights to self determination. This late referendum vote, to open a dialogue with Baghdad, has been coming for almost two years. The State Department ignored the issue until two days before the scheduled vote, when Bret McGurk released a statement saying the referendum was “ill advised and poorly timed.” That's what passes for policy at State.
The president just articulated the broad outline of the new Iranian policy last week. Yet the State Department and coalition stood by as PUK leadership abandoned its defensive position and allowed Shia forces operating American vehicles, such as M1A1 Abrams tanks and MRAPS, to enter Kirkuk and take over strategic positions around the city. Iranian Quds force leader Gen. Qasem Soleimani is reportedly at the forefront of the effort.
The U.S. government stood by and watched as yet another hostile government in Baghdad mounted a military operation against the Kurds, the exact same thing Saddam Hussein did during his reign of terror. The United States sacrificed over 5,000 dead and more than 52,000 wounded in order to unseat Saddam Hussein — only to allow a Shia government, controlled and directed by an Iranian general, to take over the country.
Once again, in downtown Erbil, Sami Abdullah Rahman Park is filled with Kurds, Kirkuk residents, sleeping on the ground, having fled their homes in Kirkuk to escape a military attack from Baghdad. This is exactly what went on under Saddam.
This is a day of shame, disgrace and betrayal. When is Secretary Rex Tillerson going to take control of the State Department? This event was the perfect opportunity to put the White House's new Iran policy to the test. How long will the State Department under its new leadership remain missing in action?
Moreover, where do we go from here? The president’s new approach to the Iran policy is correct. We must re-establish the respect, and the trust, that our allies have in the United States and engage politically, militarily and with our intelligence capacity to combat Iran's influence and its Shia proxies.
State should immediately engage, with new leadership and representatives, to assist and facilitate a dialogue between the Kurds and the Baghdad government. We must make an effort to understand the complex history of Iraq, and specifically the history of Kirkuk and the Kurds who lived there before Saddam took over the city and drove them out. The United States government has some work to do, today, to recover from the events of the past 48 hours.