The US Secretary of State is in Riyadh to counter Iran’s "Malign behavior". Shia militias that fought the Islamic State group must surrender their weapons or join the army. For Washington, the partnership between King Salman and Prime Minister Abadi is fundamental to Iraq’s rebirth.
Riyadh (AsiaNews/Agencies) – US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson wants to counter Iran’s “malign behaviour”, curb its influence in nearby Iraq, and renew the Baghdad-Riyadh axis in order to rebuild the country after years of violence.
Tillerson made the Trump administration’s case during an official visit to Saudi Arabia. He also called for Iranian and Iranian-backed Shia militia that fought the Islamic State (IS) group in Iraq to go home as the fighting winds down.
“Those fighters need to go home,” Tillerson said. “Any foreign fighters need to go home.” This will give the country a chance to rebuild.
Tillerson’s visit is centred on reducing Iran’s influence in the region, following President Donald Trump's announcement of a more confrontational approach to Tehran.
In Riyadh for the inaugural meeting of the Saudi Arabia-Iraq Coordination Council – a means that US officials believe can wean Iraq from Iran – Tillerson told Saudi King Salman and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi that the nascent partnership between their countries held great promise for Iraq’s reconstruction.
This is one of the first consequences to the devastating battles to wrest territory from Islamic State and establish its independence from foreign influence., mostly notably Iran.
“We believe this will in some ways counter some of the unproductive influences of Iran inside of Iraq,” he said at a news conference with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir after the council meeting.
Tillerson said countries outside the region could also play a role, primarily by shunning the Revolutionary Guards, which play a major role in Iran’s economy and were added to a US terrorism blacklist earlier this month.
Some Iranian-backed Shia militias have been accused of abuses against Sunni civilians, including torture and killings, during operations to regain territory from IS in Iraq.
Mr Tillerson wants Iraqi Shias in these militias either to join the Iraqi army or put down their weapons. Their Iranian backers should also leave the country.
The US diplomatic mission is a further sign that Washington wants to see the emergence of Riyadh-Baghdad axis geared against Tehran, from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean.
In 1990, when Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, diplomatic relations were severed and remained so for many years during which the two countries kept their distance.
Riyadh re-opened its embassy in Baghdad only in 2015, after a quarter of a century. Last February saw the first official visit by a Saudi diplomat in the Iraqi capital, followed by the resumption of direct flights between the two Arab capitals.
Meanwhile, the pro-Kurdish website Rudaw News quoted Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior Iranian official, who said that Tehran had no role in the taking of Kirkuk by the Iraqi army.
However, local sources in northern Iraq denounce an "aggressive" policy promoted by the Islamic Republic, which has led to the emergence of "Shia schools, mosques and libraries" in areas once inhabited by Christians.