The Iraqi government will disregard a request from U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to tell Iranian-backed militias to “go home.”
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi proclaimed via a source close to him that “No party has the right to interfere in Iraqi matters,” Reuters reports.
Tillerson said during a meeting with Abadi and King Salman from Saudi Arabia Sunday that the Iraqi Popular Mobilization forces (PMU), along with their Iranian trainers, need to pack up and head home.
Iraq does not appear receptive to the demand.
While the PMU is paid by the Iraqi government to clear out the Islamic State, it is trained and armed by Iran. Various Arab and Kurdish figures have referred to the PMU as an extension of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. Moreover, the PMU not only helped to battle ISIS, but played a crucial role in seizing control of Kirkuk from the Kurds. Following Kirkuk’s capture, heated debate ensued about what role — if any — Iran played in the operation. CIA Director Mike Pompeo stated last Thursday that he was aware of the presence of senior IRGC commander Qasem Soleimani in Kirkuk during its capture. Earlier that week, the Pentagon maintained that there was no indication of any Iranian involvement, specifically denying any involvement of the PMU.
Abadi’s office implicitly disputed the claim of Iranian involvement by maintaining that “Popular Mobilization are Iraqi patriots.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also referred to the PMU as Iraqi in origin.
“Exactly what country is it that Iraqis who rose up to defend their homes against ISIS return to? Shameful US FP, dictated by petrodollars,” Zarif wrote in a tweet.
Tillerson arrived in Baghdad Monday, following the rebuke from Abadi’s office.
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