Baghdad-Riyadh Ties Not Detrimental to Iran's Interests: FM Zarif

Elias Hubbard
October 24, 2017

But Baghdad seems reluctant to go along with Washington's request, judging by a polite but robust remark made on Monday by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's office.

A senior US official indicated to the Washington Post that Tillerson was referring to the Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Forces and the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

"No party has the right to interfere in Iraqi matters", Abadi's media office said in a statement citing a source close to the prime minister.

Asserting that "we have friends" in Baghdad and the Kurdish region's capital, Irbil, Tillerson said "we encourage both parties to enter into discussion and dialogue".

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif assailed Tillerson's comments.

The forces of the PMU, also known as Hashd al-Shaabi, are Iraqi citizens and have sacrificed themselves to defend their country, the statement read.

Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson slipped into Iraq Monday night (Oct 23) after having spent the morning in Afghanistan, but his welcome in Baghdad was far less effusive as the Trump administration pushes to isolate Iran, an important Iraqi ally. Saudi Arabia and Iraq have been estranged ever since the latter invaded Kuwait in 1990 under the leadership of former dictator Saddam Hussein.

"We are concerned and a bit saddened by the recent differences that have emerged between the Kurdistan Regional Government and the Iraqi central government", Tillerson said.

"Your growing relationship between the kingdom and Iraq is vital to bolstering our collective security and prosperity and we take great interest in it", he told the Saudi and Iraqi delegations to the inaugural committee meeting.

A senior USA official said Tillerson's remarks referred to militia fighters known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) and the Quds Force, the foreign arm of Iran's powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

The United States has over 5,000 troops deployed in Iraq and provided critical air and ground support in the offensive on Islamic State. They're also making an ethnic appeal to Shiite-dominated Iraq by suggesting Arab states should unite against Iran, which is the dominant Shiite power but not an Arab nation.

The Iraqi government was surprised by Tillerson's suggestion, according to the release.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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