The prime minister of Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan Region Nechirvan Barzani said he does not believe the country will stay together, as Sunni extremist militants continue to make territorial gains and are marching towards Baghdad.
In an interview with the BBC, Barzani said it would be "almost impossible" for Iraq to return to the situation that existed before the city of Mosul was captured by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) last week, and that the various factions needed to "sit down and find a way to live together."
“We see now Iraq before Mosul and after Mosul. I think it will be very difficult for the situation to go back the same as before,” he said in the interview, broadcast Tuesday.
ISIS militants have seized much of Iraq’s Sunni-populated territories, among them Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul. Some reports suggest that the insurgency is run only in part by the ISIS, saying that the bulk of it has is a “revolt” by the Sunni minority of a Shiite-led country.
Barzani said he does not think a solution for Iraq will be a military one, but “a political process.”
“Of course, we cannot deny ISIS has been involved in this situation. But I think it is not only ISIS. It is the result of the wrong policy in Baghdad vis-a-vis Sunni areas. It’s about all the Sunni community that feels neglected, and first we have to convince the Sunnis in a political process,” Barzani told the BBC.
He said the agenda of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is “to protect the Kurdistan Region” as a top priority, although he agreed that the Iraqi army cannot face the extremist challenge alone, advising for some Sunni tribes to take over the fight.
Asked about Shiite Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who has turned into a figure of hate by both Iraq’s Sunnis and Kurds, Barzani said there is no trust left between Maliki and Iraq’s Sunnis, Kurds or even Shiites.
Regarding possible US intervention in Iraq, Barzani said there are many ways to help the country without sending in troops. But he pointed out that the most important thing for Washington “is to make a decision to help Iraq very seriously.”
Barzani added that, if the situation in Iraq returns to normal the US, which has been a supporter of Maliki, will have to tell him to go.
Barzani said he sees the Sunnis having their own region, similar to the Kurds.
“Regarding a solution, is for the Sunni areas to decide, but the best model is to have a Sunni region like we have in Kurdistan,” the premier said.
Kurds are also majority Sunni, but because of their different ethnicity they stand apart from Iraq’s large Sunni Arab minority.