“Exactly what country is it that Iraqis who rose up
to defend their homes against ISIS return to?”
Iran's top diplomat responded.
In a rare joint meeting between the leaders of
Iraq and Saudi Arabia, the U.S. top diplomat Rex
Tillerson announced that it was time for
Iranian-backed militias and their Iranian advisers
who helped Iraq defeat the Islamic State group to
“go home,” drawing accusations that U.S. foreign
policy is dictated by the Saudi Kingdom.
“Iranian militias that are in Iraq, now that the
fight against Daesh and ISIS is coming to a close,
those militias need to go home. The foreign fighters
in Iraq need to go home and allow the Iraqi people
to regain control,” Tillerson said at a joint news
conference with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Jubeir.
Tens of thousands of Iraqis heeded a call to arms
by religious clergy in 2014 after the Islamic State
group rapidly conquered a third of the country. The
militia force called the Popular Mobilization
Forces, which received funding and training from
Tehran and have been declared part of the Iraqi
A senior U.S. official said Tillerson had been
referring to the PMF and the Quds Force, the foreign
paramilitary and espionage arm of the powerful
Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The PMF is comprised of dozens of organizations,
including Sunni Muslim, Yazidi, Christian and Shiite
Turkmen groups. The groups have been excoriated as a
sectarian tool of Iran due to the heavy
representation of Shia Muslim organizations.
Arab Shia militia include those who ideologically
align with the Islamic Republic of Iran such as the
Badr Organization, who worked with U.S. troops
following the 2003 U.S. invasion, as well as groups
like Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq – a paramilitary group that
carried out daring operations against occupying
forces during the insurrection that followed the
collapse of the Iraqi state.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
derided Tillerson’s commands as being dictated by
Iran’s oil-rich arch-rival Saudi Arabia. The Saudi
rulers have been accused of giving massive funding
and logistical aid to Sunni extremist groups like
al-Qaida and the Islamic State group.
“Exactly what country is it that Iraqis who rose
up to defend their homes against ISIS return to?,”
Zarif said in a tweet. “Shameful US FP (foreign
policy), dictated by petrodollars.”
Iraq’s military, armed by the United States but
supported by the PMF, ejected the ultra-hardline
Sunni Muslim militant group from Mosul and other
cities in northern Iraq this year. Several thousand
U.S. troops are still in the country, mostly for
training but also to carry out raids against the
Islamic State group.
A new joint ministerial-level body between Iraq
and Saudi Arabia convened its inaugural meeting
earlier on Sunday to coordinate their fight against
the Islamic State group and on rebuilding Iraqi
territory wrested from the group.
Jubeir emphasized historic ties between the two
neighbors, which share a border, vast oil resources
and many of the same tribes.
“The natural tendency of the two countries and
people is to be very close to each other as they
have been for centuries. It was interrupted for a
number of decades. We’re trying now to make up for
lost ground,” he said.
The rare senior meeting, signaling a slight thaw
between states that have been at loggerheads for
decades, was also attended by Saudi King Salman and
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.
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