A girl serves pastries to Lebanese Army soldiers during a celebration of their return from battling ISIS group on the country's eastern front bordering Syria, in the eastern town of Ras Baalbek on August 30, 2017. Photo: AFP
BAGHDAD, Iraq – The office of the Iraqi Prime Minister has denied that they were aware of the deal struck between Lebanese Hezbollah militias, Syrian Army and ISIS militants that aimed to secure the transfer of hundreds of ISIS fighters from the Syrian-Lebanese border to the Iraqi-Syrian border over the weekend.
The statement that was released Friday morning read that it was in response to “false news” carried by an Iranian news agency and a Lebanese TV channel that suggested Iraq had prior knowledge of the deal.
“We affirm that Iraq did not have knowledge regarding this deal, that we were not informed about it, that the Iraqi government was not consulted about it, and it happened entirely out of our sight,” the statement attributed to the spokesperson for the Iraqi PM read.
This comes as the Iraqi PM Haider al-Abadi expressed his concerns over the deal, calling it an “insult” to the people of Iraq.
The denial is at a time when Iraq is sharing intelligence with Syria and its regional and international backers, Iran and Russia in what is called the Baghdad Operation Room.
Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Lebanese militia, hit back at the Iraqi PM saying that the deal concerns the transfer of the ISIS militants from the western part of Syria to the eastern side of the country, and therefore it does not concern the Iraqi government.
Hezbollah has been backing the Syrian regime throughout the Syrian civil war against the Syrian rebels and also ISIS militants for about six years now.
At home, Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy head of the mainly Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi and Vice President Nouri al-Maliki both expressed their support for the Lebanese militia and the deal.
Maliki said that the deal is a Syrian internal matter and does not concern Iraq while praising the role played by Hezbollah in Syria and the region. Muhandis on his side expressed his allegiance to the Hezbollah leadership in their common fight against what he called terrorism and the Zionist state of Israel.
Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi forces have been mainly tasked with taking back control of Iraqi territories located west of Mosul stretching to the Syrian border.
The Kurdistan Region Security Council, which leads the Region’s intelligence services, called the deal “suspicious” while expressing their concern.
The Syrian army and Hezbollah in Lebanon agreed to a deal over the weekend that allowed an ISIS convoy to relocate from their enclave on the Lebanon-Syria border to the eastern province of Deir ez-Zor.
Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader, said of the deal that although they could win the war by force, continued clashes would not have secured a deal to set free imprisoned Lebanese soldiers held by ISIS militants.
He said that he had met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad regarding the fate of the imprisoned Lebanese soldiers adding that though Assad felt “embarrassed” about the deal going ahead, he agreed to it for the sake of Lebanon.
Iraq along with Syria, Russia, and Iran share the Baghdad Operation Room where the four nations share intelligence.
In February, the Iraqi PM ordered airstrikes against ISIS militants inside Syria for the first time based on intelligence gathered in the operation room, targeting places such as Al Bukamal where the ISIS militants are to be relocated according to the Hezbollah-Syrian army deal.
Syria’s air force also targeted ISIS militants on the Iraqi-Syrian border in April following shared intelligence between the four nations.
Al Bukamal is where the Iraqi government says ISIS militants masterminded its deadliest attack ever in Iraq in June 2016. The attack killed more than 300 people in Baghdad’s Karada district.
In May, President Assad and Iraq’s top security advisor discussed “direct” military cooperation on their shared border in the near future against the ISIS group in Damascus.
Iraq’s National Security Advisor Falah al-Fayadh, who is also head of the Hashd al-Shaabi board, at the time delivered a verbal message from Abadi to the Syrian President in which he called for military cooperation between the countries.
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