GWEIR (Iraqi Kurdistan) (Sputnik) – The Kurdish Peshmerga forces are ready to repel any attack on Iraqi Kurdistan, the forces’ commander Sirwan Barzani told Sputnik.
"In my opinion, without doubt, Peshmerga is in the state of combat readiness. We were able to fight the Iraqi army comprising many millions of people, the strongest army in the region at the time, only armed with Kalashnikov rifles. Of course, we are ready to repel [an attack] by whomever," he said.
However, Barzani said he didn't believe Iraqi Kurdistan would be attacked by external forces.
"Perhaps this [statements about the blockade] is connected with elections, with domestic politics in these countries, so they resort to such threats… Now the whole world sees that the Kurds and Peshmerga are not the same as 30 years ago. Therefore, it is not so easy to come and set up a blockade or to fight with us," Barzani said.
Commenting on the vote, Barzani praised Russia's stance on the region's decision to hold an independence referendum from Baghdad. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov held talks with his Iraqi counterpart Ibrahim Jaafari last week and expressed hope that the row over the Kurdish independence vote in Iraq would be resolved through dialogue, national accord, and compromise.
"We are grateful for Russia's role, it was the only not to speak out with threats, but rather it declared respect for any opinion of the people. This is right, this is real democracy. It's a noble role, and the whole Kurdish people, which has found itself under such conditions, appreciates this," he stressed.
Moreover, Iraqi Kurdistan believes that it would be able to equip its forces with Russian weapons should it become independent, according to the Peshmerga commander.
Iraqi Kurdistan is a region with a predominantly Kurdish population. The Kurds, making up about 20 percent of the Iraqi population, have been seeking self-governance for decades. In 2005, Iraq’s Constitution recognized Kurdistan as an autonomous region run by the Kurdistan Regional Government. The referendum was announced by Iraqi Kurdistan’s President Masoud Barzani in June.