US says ‘can’t tolerate’ attacks by Iranian-backed militias in Iraq

Masked Shiite fighters hold their weapons in Al Hadidiya, south of Tikrit, Iraq. (Reuters/File Photo)
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Updated 01 October 2020

US says ‘can’t tolerate’ attacks by Iranian-backed militias in Iraq

  • Iraq has long been caught in a tug-of-war between its allies Iran and the US
  • Iraq said Monday it was “not happy” with the reported American pullout threat

WASHINGTON: The US administration warned Thursday that it would not tolerate attacks on American interests in Iraq by Iran-backed militias, as Baghdad worries about a possible US withdrawal.

“We can’t tolerate the threats to our people, our men and women serving abroad,” David Schenker, assistant secretary of state, for near Eastern affairs, told reporters.

Schenker did not confirm or deny a reported US threat to withdraw its troop and close its embassy in Baghdad unless the attacks against them stop.

“We are working, and we look forward to continuing to work with our Iraqi partners to keep our personnel and our facility safe,” he said.

Also on Thursday, the US envoy on Iran Elliott Abrams said Tehran was the “main engine of violence” in the Middle East and remained one of the main sponsors of global terrorism.

Several political and diplomatic sources have told AFP that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued an ultimatum last week that all US personnel would leave Iraq unless the government puts a stop to a rash of attacks against them.

On Monday a wayward rocket targeting American troops killed seven civilians near Baghdad — one of around 40 attacks targeting US interests since early August.

Iraq said Monday it was “not happy” with the reported pullout threat.

A US withdrawal could lead to further pullouts by members of the US-led coalition fighting holdout extremists, which would be “dangerous, because the Daesh group threatens not only Iraq but the whole region,” Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein said.

Iraq has long been caught in a tug-of-war between its allies Iran and the US, rendered rockier by Washington’s “maximum pressure” policy against Tehran since 2018.

On Wednesday evening several rockets fell in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region in the environs of a base used by the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan, a commander for that group said.

Kurdish Iraqi authorities pinned the blame on the Hashed Al-Shaabi, an Iraqi state-sponsored paramilitary network dominated by pro-Iran forces.

“The single biggest problem in Iraq is the Iranian-backed militias that are undermining stability there, and attacking the United States,” Schenker said.

“The arms are not under the control of the central government. Groups continue to launch rockets at our embassy, attack Americans,” he said.


Turkey irked over joint declaration by Cyprus, Greece and Egypt

Updated 23 October 2020

Turkey irked over joint declaration by Cyprus, Greece and Egypt

  • The joint statement also asked Turkey to accept Cyprus’ invitation to enter negotiations for an agreement on maritime delimitations

ISTANBUL: Turkey’s Foreign Ministry on Thursday slammed a joint statement by Greece, Cyprus and Egypt that condemns Turkish energy exploration in the eastern Mediterranean and numerous “provocations” that they maintain are threatening regional peace.
The Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it “fully rejected the declaration containing baseless accusations and allegations.”
During a trilateral regional summit on Wednesday in Nicosia, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis urged Ankara to end its “aggressive” actions.
The joint statement also asked Turkey to accept Cyprus’ invitation to enter negotiations for an agreement on maritime delimitations. Greece and Cyprus have signed maritime border agreements with Egypt while dismissing a similar deal that Ankara signed with Libya’s Tripoli-based government as “legally invalid.”
The Turkish Foreign Ministry said the declaration attacked Ankara rather than supporting peace and stability in the region. It repeated Turkey’s position that cooperation could only take place with the inclusion of Turkish Cypriots in governing and sharing the resources of the ethnically divided island nation.
“We will continue with determination to protect our rights and the rights of Turkish Cypriots in the eastern Mediterranean,” the ministry statement said.
The trilateral summit took place amid high tensions between nominal NATO allies Greece and Turkey over maritime borders and energy rights.
In late summer, Turkey dispatched a research vessel escorted by warships to conduct seismic research in a part of the Mediterranean Sea that Greece claims as its territory, which prompted the Greek government to deploy its own warships.
Turkey pulled the research ship back to shore for several weeks for maintenance and to allow time for diplomacy but redeployed the Oruc Reis on a new energy exploration mission. A maritime announcement by Turkey says the Oruc Reis and two other ships would continue working in the area until Oct. 27.
Turkey also has had ships prospecting for oil and gas reserves in waters that Cyprus claims as its exclusive economic zone.