The prime minister of Iraq’s Kurdish region says he warned Baghdad and the United States months ago about the threat that a Sunni militant group posed to Iraq, but “nothing happened.”
In an interview with NBC News, Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani said that Kurdistan was well aware of the danger posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham - his region now has a 600-mile front in northern Iraq along territory controlled by ISIS.
He said the Kurds tried to get Iraq Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki to do something about ISIS - particularly on the danger posed to the northern city of Mosul - as the Sunni militants gathered strength in Iraq while fighting against Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime.
“We just offered him a joint operation almost six months ago,” Barzani said. “He just refused that. He said everything is fine, there is no problem, everything is under control.”
Barzani said overtures to the U.S. also failed to produce results.
“They told us they will put pressure on Iraq and they will tell Baghdad, but nothing happened,” he said.
The Kurds control part of northern Iraq in an arrangement enshrined in the Iraqi constitution. Over the past few weeks, ISIS has taken over large stretches of northern Iraq that butt up against the Kurdish territory. ISIS now controls Mosul and other cities and towns north of Baghdad. On Saturday, the group was reported to have seized a border crossing with Syria.
In the NBC News interview, Barzani said that al-Maliki should step down.
“By having him as a prime minister it will be more complicated” to find a solution to the Iraq crisis, Barzani said.
He also said that a federal form of government, with the Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds each controlling their own territory, was probably the best way for Iraq to survive as a united country.
“Look, prime minister… this situation needs a political solution,” Barzani said when asked what he would like to tell al-Maliki. “This is not a military solution … it will not be solved through a military operation. The only solution is a political solution.”