BAGHDAD AFP Oct23, 2017
Iraq on Monday rebuffed a US demand that Iranian militias leave the country, insisting that the paramilitary forces which helped it defeat the Islamic State group consist solely of Iraqi nationals.
“Nobody has the right to interfere in Iraqi affairs,” the Iraqi cabinet said in a statement, quoting a source close to Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.
“The fighters of the Hashed (al-Shaabi paramilitary units) are Iraqis who are concerned for their country and have sacrificed for its defence and for its people,” it said.
On Sunday, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson demanded that Iranian militias leave Iraq. The 60,000-strong Hashed was formed in 2014 after IS seized swathes of northern Iraq, routing government forces. A coalition mostly made up of Iranian-backed militias, it has played a key role in Iraq’s successful fightback against the jihadists over the past three years.
It answers to Iraq’s prime minister as commander-in-chief of the Iraqi armed forces, into which it has been integrated by a parliamentary vote.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has also hit back at Tillerson’s remarks, saying Iran played a crucial role in the fight against IS both in Iraq and Syria.