Former President of Kurdistan Masoud Barzani said in a March 10, 2023 interview on BBC Arabic that if the U.S.-led coalition completely withdraws from Iraq, ISIS will have a "powerful comeback." He explained that the people who call for the coalition's withdrawal are aware of this, but prefer to engage in "baseless 'patriotic' bravado". Barzani also said that the Iranians came and filled the vacuum left by America's withdrawal from Iraq in 2011, at which time the Iraqi army did not have the necessary capabilities. He elaborated that the Iraqi army "evaporated in 10 hours" when facing ISIS in Mosul because it lacked "patriotic loyalty." In addition, he said that the Shi'ites who were in power are responsible for most of the sectarian violence in Iraq.
Masoud Barzani: "By no means have we supported the policies of either the Shi'ite or the Sunni political parties. Both sides bear the responsibility, because both sides were involved in sectarian killings. However, since it was the Shi'ites who were in power, their share of the responsibility is bigger than that of others.
"When the American forces withdrew in 2011, they left a vacuum, and the Iraqi army was not at a level allowing it to fill that vacuum. The Iranians filled a large part of the vacuum, either directly or through the groups allied with them.
"When [ISIS] entered Mosul, everybody was taken by surprise. As far as we know, ISIS did not have a plan to occupy Mosul. All they wanted was to release some prisoners from Badush Prison. But when they engaged some units in Mosul, the resistance collapsed. The army that took NATO 10 years to build evaporated in 10 hours."
Interviewer: "And thousands fled to Kurdistan..."
Barzani: "Of course, they came to us. That is correct. The Iraqi army was not founded on national patriotic loyalty, and so it collapsed."
"The people of Mosul collaborated with ISIS, and even viewed them as saviors, at first. Later, they found out the [ISIS] were not saviors but brought disaster.
"I am absolutely convinced that if the coalition forces completely withdraw from Iraq, ISIS will have a powerful comeback."
Interviewer: "ISIS is still organized..."
Barzani: "This threat still exists. People who demand the withdrawal of the Coalition forces, also know this, I believe, but prefer to engage in baseless 'patriotic' bravado."