Tuesday October 24, 2017
A prominent Iraqi militia leader with close ties to Iran has told the United States to go home while also accusing US forces of not actually being interested in fighting ISIS: “Your forces should get ready to get out of our country once the excuse of Daesh’s presence is over," said Sheikh Qais al-Khazali, the commander of the Shiite PMU group Asaib (Popular Mobilization Unit), through the group's TV channel on Monday. The threatening statement was issued the same day Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi publicly rejected Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's earlier suggestion that Iraqi paramilitary units who have for years fought Islamic State terrorists are actually "Iranian" and not Iraqi nationals.
On Sunday Tillerson controversially asserted that Iranian "militias" need to leave Iraq as the fight against Islamic State militants was coming to an end while in Riyadh where he engaged in rare high level talks with Abadi and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman. “Certainly Iranian militias that are in Iraq, now that the fighting against (the Islamic State group) is coming to a close, those militias need to go home,” Tillerson said during a press conference in Riyadh, just before boarding a plane for Baghdad. "All foreign fighters need to go home,” he added.
But Iraqi PM Abadi pushed back against the Secretary of State in a face to face meeting in Baghdad on Monday. Abadi's words to Tillerson were publicized through a statement on the prime minister's official Facebook page posted late Monday, which has been translated by Zero Hedge (emphasis ours):
Prime Minister Dr. Haider al-Abadi during his meeting with the American Secretary of State Rex Tillerson assured him that the fighters of al-Hash'd al Shaabi [PMU militias] are Iraqi fighters who fought terrorism and protected their country, they sacrificed in order to win against Daesh [ISIS], and that Hash'd al Shaabi is an official institution under the state. The Iraqi Constitution doesn’t allow for foreign armed groups under state institutions, and further said that we should encourage these fighters because they are the hope of our country and for the region.And a separate statement issued earlier in the day by the prime minister's media office warned, "No party has the right to interfere in Iraqi matters.” So it appears, based on today's rebuttals, that the Iraqi government and its paramilitary forces increasingly see American troop presence as the actual foreign menace which potentially threatens Iraqi national sovereignty.