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Kurdish Leader Barzani: Iraq's 'Sectarian Army' Led to ISIS Gains

Kurdistan Regional Government Masoud Barzani said Iraq has been unsuccessful against ISIS because its former government built a "sectarian army."

Iraq has failed to defeat ISIS because its previous government built a "sectarian army" that excluded Sunni Muslims, the president of Iraqi Kurdistan told CNBC.

Masoud Barzani said recent ISIS gains — including the capture of Ramadi last week — have come because Iraq's army has been unable to capitalize on weapons and support sent by Washington.

He claimed that his own Peshmerga troops, which have had more success against the militants, would be able to make better use of the arms.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Jordan, Barzani said the previous Iraqi government, led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, "provided an environment for the sort of problems that we see in the Iraqi military."

He alleged that al-Maliki's government "changed the national army to a more sectarian army, and those people that were supposed to fight for the country didn't really have the cause."

This sectarianism "was the main reason why the Iraqi military wasn't able to succeed," he said.

Barzani's comments come a day after U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told CNN's "State of the Union" that "most of us … have an issue with the will of the Iraqis to fight and defend themselves."

President Barack Obama has in the past week pledged more rockets to aid Baghdad in its fight against ISIS. But Barzani said the Iraqis have been "unable to take the best advantage" of the support received so far.

"We are very grateful and thank the United States for the support that they provided to Kurdistan," he said of his own supply from the U.S. "Unfortunately in terms of the weapons, we have not really received the kind of equipment that we demand and is required to fight and defeat ISIS."

Earlier this month the House Armed Services Committee supported the authorization of the president's request of $715 million for security assistance to Iraqi forces battling ISIS, but stipulated that 25 percent of the funds be given directly to Kurdish and Sunni forces involved in the fight, according to The Associated Press.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.