WASHINGTON - Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on Thursday called for more support for the Kurds and Sunnis in Iraq and Syria.
“We’ve got to work with the Kurds on both sides of the border, we have got to figure out how to, if possible, have a second Arab Awakening in Anbar Province, get the Sunni tribes to feel that it is their fight again, as they once did,” she said.
Clinton praised the fight of the Kurds against Islamic State (IS). “On the Iraqi side of the border, Kurdish forces have fought bravely to defend their own lands and to re-take towns from ISIS,” she said.
“But the Iraqi national army has struggled, and it’s going to take more work to get it up to fighting shape. As part of that process, we may have to give our own troops advising and training the Iraqis greater freedom of movement and flexibility, including embedding in local units and helping target airstrikes,” she added.
Pressure on Baghdad
But she said this also includes more pressure on Baghdad and if they refuse to do so, the coalition should support Kurds and Sunnis directly.
“And we need — one thing that I believe we haven’t done yet is make it clear to Baghdad that we are going to be arming Sunni tribes and Kurds if they don’t, because at some point, they have to be in the fight,” she stated.
“The Kurds, as you know, are fighting bravely on both sides of the border, and they need the support that we’ve given them and some of the special ops work, and the assault and taking back of Sinjar,” she mentioned.
Although the Syrian Kurds are very much opposed to a Turkish-backed no-fly zone in Syria, Clinton thinks this could be a solution. “Turkey discussed with me back when I was secretary of state in 2012,” she said.
“And I think we have a chance to do that now. We have a no-fly zone over northern Iraq for years to protect the Kurds. And it proved to be successful, not easy — it never is — but I think now is the time for us to revisit those plans,” she said.
Nevertheless, she opposed Turkish bombardments of Kurds.
“So far, however, Turkey has been more focused on the Kurds than on countering ISIS. And to be fair, Turkey has a long and painful history with Kurdish terrorist groups,” she said.
“But the threat from ISIS cannot wait. As difficult as it may be, we need to get Turkey to stop bombing Kurdish fighters in Syria who are battling ISIS, and become a full partner in our coalition efforts against ISIS,” she stated.
Moreover, she said there should be more support for Syrian Arabs fighting ISIS. “On the Syrian side, the big obstacle to getting more ground forces to engage ISIS, beyond the Syrian Kurds who are already deep in the fight, is that the viable Sunni opposition groups remain understandably preoccupied with fighting Assad,” she said.
“So we need to move simultaneously toward a political solution to the civil war that paves the way for a new government with new leadership, and to encourage more Syrians to take on ISIS as well,” she concluded.