Urgent statement by APPG Chairman Jack Lopresti MP

The West cannot stand idly by as the Shia militia and Iran exploit differences within Iraq for their own selfish ends.

Statement by Jack Lopresti MP, Chairman All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Kurdistan Region in Iraq.

The unwarranted aggression of the Shia militia against the Peshmerga in Kirkuk is far less to do with the post-referendum dispute between Iraqis and Kurds than Iran exploiting these divisions for its own ends.

Before last night’s aggressive manoeuvres, an Iranian designed explosively formed penetrator (EFP) killed US Specialist Alexander W. Missildine and wounded another American soldier in Salahaddin province on 1 October.

I note that IRGC leader, General Qasem Solemani has been in Baghdad for the past three days, which underlines the malign influence of Iran on Iraq and reinforces US President Trump’s calling Iran out on their expansionism.

It appears that Prime Minister Abadi is being sidelined by the Iranian backed militia. We may be just a few hours from a shooting war between the Shia militia and the Peshmerga which have reinforced their positions south of Kirkuk, which myself and other MPs visited in November 2015 as a guest of their commander Wasta Rasool.

The UK must do all in its power to encourage Prime Minister Abadi to rein in the Shia militia, which are now technically part of the Iraqi Security Forces following a two hour debate in the Iraqi parliament. We should ask Iraqi Prime Minister Abadi to abide by his recent statement that “We will not use our army against our people or fight a war against our Kurdish and other citizens.”

I have asked the Foreign Office to raise the matter through our Permanent Representative at the UN and to do all it can to urge an immediate halt to offensive military actions by the Shia militia and any Iraq forces in the Kirkuk area. It underlines the importance of encouraging dialogue between Erbil and Baghdad.

I also commend the Peshmerga for their moderate response, their withdrawal from some front-line areas this morning and their adoption of purely defensive positions. They are clearly not spoiling for a fight but will defend themselves and the citizens of Kirkuk if necessary.

The world should remember that the Peshmerga were vital in the fight against ISIS, at great cost in lives and wounded, and that their actions were for the benefit of Iraq as a whole and the wider international community.

It would be catastrophic for Kurdish/Arab relations were the Iranian proxy militia to use American weapons against our vital allies in the Peshmerga. It would demonstrate a complete abdication of responsibility to Iranian backed forces that have no interest in a peaceful settlement between Baghdad and Erbil – the key actors in the post-referendum discussions. The West cannot stand idly by as the Shia militia and Iran exploit differences within Iraq for their own selfish ends.

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