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Hezbollah flexes its muscles against Barzani

President of the regional government of Iraqi Kurdistan, Masoud Barzani [Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff/Wikipedia]
President of the regional government of Iraqi Kurdistan, Masoud Barzani [Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff/Wikipedia]

Live on Mayadeen's "Hourly dialogue" programme, Iraqi Hezbollah Brigade spokesman Jaafar Al-Husseini fired scathing remarks against the President of the Kurdistan Regional Government, Masoud Barzani.

Though only a non-state actor, the group's reliable strategy of aggressive diplomacy reared its ugly head just days after votes were cast in Monday's Kurdish referendum.

Dissatisfied with the defiance shown by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Hezbollah let its position be known.

"Even before results came in" the referendum was "considered null and void", Al-Husseini said, "by our resistance faction, the Iraqi government and populations of the Kurdish enclave".

In a naked display of defamation, Barzani was equated to the leader of Daesh Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. When asked to clarify his position by the host, Al-Husseini expressed that "the actions of both men are one, seeking to tear the country apart".

Although the masses have expressed their wish to split from Baghdad, Iraqi Hezbollah proceeded to belittle the victory as a dream that belongs to the Barzani clan and not one demanded by the people.

Though not threatening war directly, Al-Husseini warned of future conflicts should Barzani continue to carve out a free Kurdistan undeterred, particularly across disputed territories.

Inflammatory bluster was levelled at Israel, accused by Hezbollah's representative of chessboard politics and for making Barzani its kingmaker.

Accusatory fingers were also pointed at America for collaborating with what Al-Husseini described as the "Zionist enemy" to sponsor Iraq's federalisation. Al-Husseini told Mayadeen that control of disputed territories, Kirkuk and others, was achieved by military force, rather than consensus, unwilling to recognise the sacrifices of Peshmerga soldiers.

Read: Kurdish independence will see Iraq disintegrate; it's Israel's dream scenario

Peshmerga forces cast their ballots in the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG)'s non binding independence referendum on 25 September 2017. [Yunus Keleş /Anadolu Agency]

Peshmerga forces cast their ballots in the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG)'s non binding independence referendum on 25 September 2017. [Yunus Keleş /Anadolu Agency]

"We will deal with him as we dealt with Daesh," Al-Husseini said, referring to Barzani.

It seems that Iraq's Hezbollah Brigade shares its qualms with the central government in Baghdad. Both believe that the KRG's latest steps towards independence betray the interest of the elite, loyal still to Baghdad's ailing political project.

Baghdad however has been more restrained in its comments, next to Tehran's client militia group who unforgivingly blasted Barzani for his continued political manoeuvring and veiled intentions.

In spite of the feisty rhetoric, Al-Husseini played down the potential of future battles between Hezbollah and the KRG's armed Peshmerga forces.

Though it is not clear in what capacity these comments were made, Hezbollah's muscle flexing may have been called upon to plant fear in the hearts and minds of an already highly traumatised population. Though it was made clear that fighting is not in Hezbollah's interests, no call for dialogue was raised.

The interest of the Kurdish people lies with a unified Iraq

was what Al-Husseini kept repeating, however unconvincing.

The biggest result of the referendum is not so much the "yes vote" but a realisation that people no longer trust the central government.

A central government in disarray has given the Kurds every right to call for independence. The issue at hand is not self-determination or secession however – the crux of the matter is political. Without unshakeable commitment of Iraqi Kurds, the system America installed 14 years ago could never have been built.

Although the rejection of Baghdad's US-imposed structure has been voiced by other ethno-confessional communities, global audiences only appear to view the KRG's stance of "non-acceptance" as admissible

The words spoken may only be warning signs of what is to follow, but it emboldens both opponents of an independent Kurdistan and other communities that desire self-determination and an enclave they can call their own.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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