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US Lacks Leverage to Mediate in Iraqi-Kurdish Conflict - Ex-State Dept. Official

© Sputnik / HİKMET DURGUN / Peshmerga female fighters in Kirkuk
Peshmerga female fighters in Kirkuk - Sputnik International
Former US State Department official Wa'el Alzayat has shared in an interview with Sputnik his opinion concerning US chances to mediate the dialogue between Baghdad and Erbil.

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — The United States does not have enough power in Iraq to facilitate dialogue between Baghdad and Erbil in order to resolve the ongoing crisis, former US State Department official Wa'el Alzayat told Sputnik on the sidelines of a panel discussion at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Wednesday.

"Because they [United States] have a close relationship with both sides, they want to maintain that relationship," Alzayat said. "I think they will not be able to bridge the differences. And it is also [a] byproduct of the fact that we don't have the same power we used to in Iraq, we don’t have the same amount of troops, we don't have the same political clout."

Alzayat, who served as special assistant to the US Ambassador to Iraq from 2011 to 2012, said the United States would like to see Iraq united but acknowledged that the Iraqi government will likely continue to push the Kurds in an effort to prevent them from seceding.

Despite the fact the United States at present cannot influence the sides to the conflict, Washington may restrict US arms sales to Iraq for the foreseeable future.

Alzayat also pointed out that Iran is the state that currently has significant leverage on the ground in the region.

READ MORE: Ex-Pentagon Chief: Iraqis, Kurds Must Find Common Ground to Avoid Civil War

Tensions between Baghdad and Erbil escalated after Iraqi Kurdistan organized a referendum for independence on September 25. The vote resulted in more than 90 percent of the Kurds supporting secession from Iraq.

Members of Iraqi federal forces are seen near the oil fields in Kirkuk, Iraq October 16, 2017 - Sputnik International
Why Baghdad-Kurdistan Conflict is Unlikely to Significantly Affect Oil Market
Following the independence vote, Baghdad launched a military operation in the oil-rich Kirkuk province, disputed by both the central government and Iraq Kurdistan and de facto controlled by Kurdistan's Peshmerga military forces.

Within a day of the operation, the Iraqi forces gained control of most of Kirkuk, including oil fields and the administration building and have continued the operation, which has resulted in clashes with Peshmerga forces.

In its turn, Erbil has demanded the Iraqi troops' "immediate" withdrawal. The US State Department previously called on the parties to avoid mutual provocations.

READ MORE: US State Department Urges Baghdad, Kurds to Avoid Provocations

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