Baghdad and Tehran slam Washington: Shiite militias hope for Iraq and the region
Tillerson had hoped for the expulsion of Shiite fighters from the country. The Iraqi Prime Minister defends their role in the fight against the Islamic State. They are local paramilitaries, not Iranian allies, and should be "encouraged". Iranian Foreign Minister claims the role of "peace and stability" exercised by Tehran in the region.
Baghdad (AsiaNews / Agencies) – The Iraqi Prime Minister has rejected the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's words and defended the role of Shiite militias supported by Iran in the struggle against the Islamic State (IS, formerly Isis) in the north.
Earlier, during a three-day summit in Riyadh, the head of US diplomacy had strongly criticized the fighting militias and called for their expulsion from the country or enlistment in the regular army.
During an official visit to Baghdad, Tillerson met Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi late yesterday. During the face to face, two days after the Saudi Summit, the head of government called Shiite fighters "the hope of Iraq and the region."
Iraqi Popular Mobility Units (PMU, Shia majority and close to Tehran) in recent months joined the offensive launched by the Iraqi government for the liberation of Mosul and the Nineveh plain in the north. Their role was decisive in the context of the military campaign, which ended with the liberation of the territories in the hands of jihadists for over three years.
Recently Shiite militias contributed decisively to the capture of Kirkuk, the country's oil center, wrested from Kurdish forces.
During the meeting in Baghdad with the US Secretary of State, Abadi stressed that paramilitary troops are Iraqi - not Iranian allies - and must "be encouraged" because they are a source of "hope for the country and the region." The fighters, continues the government note, defend "their country and made a great sacrifice for the defeat of the Islamic State"
The Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also commented on the issue defending Tehran's role in ensuring regional "peace and stability". "The people of Syria, Iraq and the Kurdish autonomous region - he added - have been able to withstand the onslaught of the Islamic State through the contribution of Iran." Without the contribution of the Islamic Republic, he concluded, the flag of the Caliphate would fly today "over Damascus, Baghdad and Erbil."
Last but not least, the PMU’s response to the United States was to demand an "apology" for their inappropriate comments on their commitment to fighting jihadism. PMU spokesman Ahmad al-Asadi, stressed that Tillerson's words "on the presence of Iranian forces in Iraq are unacceptable".
He added that there are "false and groundless" allegations, because "all those fighting in the field are Iraqis". These words of the head of US diplomacy, reflect the lack of knowledge and experience of the United States in local affairs, and renewed the demand for Washington's apology for these statements.