Relations between Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki continued to worsen today, as KRG President Massud Barzani delivered a high profile speech in Arbil today about the threats posed by Maliki’s government.
Barzani’s comments expressed hope that the KRG’s close relationship with US oil giant ExxonMobil would afford some protection from attempts to undermine its autonomy, and warned against a coming military confrontation.
To that end, Barzani warned that Maliki’s government should not be allowed to purchase US-made F-16 warplanes, saying he is convinced that they would be used against the Kurdish north by Maliki, who is increasingly centralizing power under his control.
Barzani has discussed the F-16 purchases in the past, saying he believes that the only reason Maliki hasn’t invaded KRG territory yet is because of the relative parity between the Iraqi military and the Peshmearga, and warning that the F-16s could tip the balance overwhelmingly in favor of Maliki’s forces.
Barzani has been increasingly vocal in his criticism of Maliki, who is currently the Prime Minister as well as the acting Interior Minister, Defense Minister, National Security Minister, and Chief of Military Staff. A recent visit to Turkey had Barzani discussing the situation with Turkish PM Erdogan, leading Maliki to declare Turkey an “enemy state.”