ARBIL, Iraq: Iraqi Kurdistan is prepared to strike militants anywhere, including in neighboring Syria, but must avoid being drawn into its civil war, the autonomous region’s President Massud Barzani said.
Barzani’s remarks came after militants carried out a late-September attack on a security service headquarters in the Kurdish region’s capital Arbil, killing seven people—a rare occurrence in an area usually spared the violence plaguing other parts of Iraq.
“We will not hesitate in directing strikes [against]the terrorist criminals in any place,” Barzani said in an exclusive interview, when asked about the possibility of Kurdish action against militants in Iraq or Syria.
“Our duty is to protect the Kurds if we are able,” he said.
But the long-time Kurdish leader made a distinction between that and being drawn into Syria’s bloody civil war, which he said the Kurds must try to avoid.
“Our opinion is that the Kurds must stand at the same distance” from all parties in the conflict, so “the Kurdish people are not forced into a war” from which they will gain nothing, Barzani said.
But Syrian Kurdish forces have already been drawn into the fighting, clashing with jihadist groups fighting President Bashar al-Assad’s troops who want to secure a land corridor connecting them to Iraq.