IRAQ’S Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi urged calm yesterday in self-ruled Kurdistan after rioting followed regional president Masoud Barzani’s resignation on Sunday.
Mr Abadi said that central government was closely monitoring “attempts to create chaos and disorder” in the cities of Irbil and Dahuk.
Mr Barzani, who held on to the presidency when his term of office expired in 2015, told the regional parliament that he would not seek re-election after last month’s divisive Kurdish independence referendum, which he spearheaded, sparked a crisis with Baghdad and neighbouring countries.
As the Kurdish regional parliament was discussing his resignation letter, dozens of his supporters rioted outside, apparently angry over developments and expressing support for him.
They broke into the assembly and attacked MPs and journalists until police subdued them. They also attacked an office of the rival Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and an opposition TV station.
Mr Barzani’s rash referendum decision and Baghdad’s swift response to it after September’s poll have seen his forces lose nearly half the territory they controlled during the war against Isis.
The region’s airspace was closed to international commercial flights, Ankara threatened the use of military force and both Iran and Turkey threatened to close border crossings vital to the landlocked region.
After his resignation, Mr Barzani addressed the Kurdish people on TV, accusing Baghdad of escalating tensions and no longer believing in Kurdish rights while lambasting the PUK for “treason,” referring to an alleged deal with Baghdad to withdraw PUK forces from the disputed oil-rich city of Kirkuk.
Mr Barzani slated Washington for failing to back his actions, saying: “Nobody stood up with us other than our mountains.”
The outgoing regional president denounced the US for abandoning the Kurds and allowing US Abrams tanks supplied to Iraqi forces to fight Isis to be deployed against them.
“Without the help of peshmerga (Kurdish fighters), Iraqi forces could not have liberated Mosul from Isis,” he pointed out.
“Our people should now question whether the US was aware of Iraq’s attack and why they did not prevent it. Why would Washington want to punish Kurdistan?” he reflected in disbelief.