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US concerned about Iranian influence but in Iraq at will of Baghdad

By Rudaw 24/10/2017
US State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert. Photo: US Department of State video
US State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert. Photo: US Department of State video
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The US State Department has again acknowledged the influence of Iran on government forces in Iraq, but reiterated that the United States is in Iraq at Baghdad’s invitation to defeat ISIS, and tensions between Baghdad and “friends in the north” should be resolved through dialogue.

"We recognize that there are various groups, that there are Iraqi forces that are, the PMF [popular mobilization forces] for example, that are a part of the Iraqi government forces but where there is also an Iranian influence. That is something we fully recognize,” said US State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert on Tuesday.

The mainly Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi is the largest element of the PMF. In the war with ISIS in Iraq, the US-led international coalition provided air strikes to the traditional Iraqi and Kurdish Peshmerga forces – both of whom were trained and worked closely with the coalition – but not the PMF.

"The United States operates in Iraq at the request of Iraqi government. We are there a part of working in concert with the Iraqi government and the many member of the de-ISIS coalition," said Nauert. “Our aim is to take out ISIS and to assist with that.”

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s office chastised US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson after he commented on the weekend that “Iranian militia” in Iraq should “go home.” 

“No one has the right to interfere in Iraqi affairs,” read a statement from Abadi’s office. 

Nauert responded on Tuesday. "So when the Iraqi government tells us they are done with us, I guess that, that would be the case.”

The Hashd al-Shaabi was formed upon a call by Iraq’s grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in the summer of 2014 when ISIS captured several Iraqi provinces. He urged civilians to take up arms and fight.

They were officially brought under the umbrella of the country's armed forces last December, much to the opposition of many Kurdish, Sunni, and some Shiite leaders including firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Nauert said Tillerson’s comments reflected widespread concerns. "I think the Secretary was really speaking to what a lot of people are concerned about. And that is Iranian influence in the region, but also in Iraq," she said. “So that is a concern of the Secretary's."

The Hashd, alongside the traditional Iraqi forces, retook disputed areas from the Peshmerga in military operations last week. 

There have been multiple reports of continued violence and attacks, largely against Kurdish populations in the disputed areas. Nauert said the United States "is aware" of the reports.

"We want calm. We want dialogue. We don't want any violent measures taken," urged the spokesperson. "We are working with Iraqi government officials every single day – also our friends in the north."

She was unable to comment on recent Amnesty International reports of displacement and violence against Kurds in Tuz Khurmatu when asked by Rudaw's Namo Abdullah about "evidence" of the actions of Iran-backed militias.

Iraq's parliament authorized Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to take measures after the Kurdistan Region included disputed places like diverse and oil-rich Tuz Khurmatu, Kirkuk, and Shingal in its September 25 independence referendum.

"We would call for calm on all sides,” she said, explaining that the US had expressed concern before the referendum “that this would back Iraq away from a unified government.” 

“That remains a concern of ours. And that is being borne out in some of the actions we see in Iraq right now.”

Iraq's second-largest city of Mosul was liberated from ISIS in July. ISIS’ capital Raqqa in Syria was declared liberated on October 20. Kurdish fighters in Iraq and Syria sacrificed thousands of lives as partner forces to the international coalition in the fight.

Nauert was asked if US President Donald Trump considers ISIS' so-called caliphate to be defeated.

“We aren't there yet,” she replied.


Sorry for cooperating with America! | 25/10/2017
I was always opposed to the Kurds fighting the SOB ISIS beyond the Kurdish territories, unless and until they received an ironclad and written guarantee from the West, especially the U.S. that after the defeat of ISIS, the West will support the Kurds’ demand for independence. Unfortunately, the Kurdish leadership has never been smart enough to sit down with foreign powers and negotiate a treaty with them to protect their own national interests. Their forefathers couldn't do it after WWI when every nation in the Middle East was gaining independence; and their political leadership couldn't do it now either. So, the Kurds were thrown under the bus, to the best of my knowledge, for the 5th times during the last 100 years (1923, 1946, 1975, 1991 and 2017). As President Trump might say, “SAD”! The Kurds’ second misfortune in recent years was the fact that one of their enemies that could have been their ally was also enormously stupid. I am talking of the Sunni Arabs (led by ISIS). If those SOB’s had not been so stupid and had not attacked the Kurds in Iraq and Syria, and if the West had not seen all those horrible pictures of the poor Yazidi people on television being attacked by ISIS terrorists, the U.S. would not have attacked ISIS at all. And, if by any chance, the U.S. had started a war on ISIS, without the Kurds’ help and participation, the Iraqi Shiites would not have been able to defeat ISIS. Consequently, right now, the Kurds would have had their own independent country, and the Sunni Arabs (ISIS) would have been ruling the rest of Iraq plus a large portion of Syria, with Baghdad as their capital. Above all, the terrorist mullahs in Iran would not have been able to expand their dangerous ideology and influence further in the region. THERE IS NO BIGGER DISEASE IN THE WORLD THAN STUPIDITY! And both the Kurds and the Sunni Arabs (led by ISIS) were stupid! They really should have been natural allies against Iran and its Shiite stooges in both Iraq and Syria.
anon | 25/10/2017
ENOUGH WITH YOUR DIALOGUES! The kurdish people have time and time again for over 100 years declared they do not want to be a part of Iraq and that they are their own people and wish to be so! It is not your right to force them to be a part of Iraq! it is your duty as the world superpower and beacon of freedom to support their will and cry for freedom! otherwise you are nothing but hypocritical trash! the United States separated from England over taxes, the Kurds are not even Arabs and have been genocide and tortured for far too long! they have a greater right to self-determination than the united states ever did!
duroi | 25/10/2017
The chatter is that Tillerson is hanging by a thread to his post and he will not last beyond 12 months on his job and perhaps he had too much on his plate and he didn't want to deal with a Kurdish-Iraqi crisis during the remainder of his job when he asked to delay the referendum by a year. Considering that his restructuring has eliminated many of the experienced folks in the state department, things will remain chaotic for the remainder of his term.
Harman | 25/10/2017
Motherfuckers Yankees go home. You betray nit only your friends, but your wives for the sake of oil and dollars 💵 💵 💵. USA has never standards and values, and under the leadership of bastard Trump no more principles anymore

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