In a televised speech shortly after Kurdistan’s regional parliament accepted his resignation on Sunday, Barzani said no one had stood up to back Kurdish aspirations for independence.
Under Barzani’s supervision, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) defied the central government in Baghdad by holding a referendum on secession on September 25. Baghdad reacted by saying that the results of the plebiscite had to be annulled and that Kurdistan had to turn over the control of its border posts to the federal government.
The Iraqi military also launched operations to drive Kurdish militants out of territory that they had overrun in the course of fighting against Daesh but had refused to hand over after pushing the terrorists out.
The US had voiced muted opposition to the Kurdish referendum before it was held. But the Kurds seemed to believe that once the vote was held, Washington would be faced with a fait accompli and would come out in support of the Kurdish ambitions to break up Iraq. It did not.
“Nobody stood up with us other than our mountains,” Barzani said bitterly in his speech, standing in front of Kurdish and Iraqi flags.
“Why would Washington want to punish Kurdistan?” he said.
The US has for long worked with the Kurds as its most trusted allies in the region. In neighboring Syria, the US has been regarding Kurdish militants as its best regional partners in a purported fight against Daesh over the objections of NATO ally Turkey.
Barzani, who was largely blamed for an injudicious decision to call the referendum at a time when the Iraqi government was busy fighting Daesh terrorists, said American-supplied weapons had been used against Kurdish militants by the Iraqi forces.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered military operations against Kurdish militants only after they defied several ultimatums to leave seized territory and after the KRG refused to annul the referendum results.
But days later, on Friday, Abadi also ordered a ceasefire to facilitate an agreement on the peaceful handover of all Kurdish border posts to federal forces.
In a statement on that same day, Abadi called Iraqi and Kurdish forces “children of the same country.”
On October 16, the first day of the Iraqi military operations, federal forces retook control of the Kurdish-held city of Kirkuk.
Barzani said the forces in oil-rich Kirkuk, who largely left the Iraqi city on their own, had committed “high treason” for handing over the city without a fight.