Iraq summons Saudi ambassador over Shiite militia remarks

Iraqi foreign ministry summons Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to country over his recent remarks connected to Iraqi Shiite militias

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Shiiite volunteers from Hashd al Shaabi, who have joined the Iraqi army to fight against DAESH, stands during a graduation ceremony after completing their field training in Kirkuk on Jan. 2, 2016

Iraqi foreign ministry has summoned on Sunday Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the country over his recent statements concerning Iranian-backed Iraqi Shiite militias’ role in fight against DAESH.

"This constitutes...a breach of diplomatic protocol and is based on inaccurate information," the ministry said in a statement about Saudi envoy Thamer al Sabhan's remarks.

The Saudi ambassador previously said that the Shiite Hashd al Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Forces) militia should leave the fight against DAESH to the Iraqi army and official security forces to avoid aggravating sectarian tensions in the country.

"The Hashid Shaabi are fighting terrorism and defending the country's sovereignty and acting under the umbrella and command of the commander-in-chief of the armed forces," the Iraqi statement said, referring to the coalition of mainly Shiite paramilitary groups.

Iraqi Shiite Muslim lawmakers on Sunday also accused the new Saudi ambassador of meddling in domestic affairs following his remarks over Shiite militias. 

Hashd al Shaabi was established during former Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki’s tenure by joining existing militia groups of the country in the summer 2014 under one banner to create a large paramilitary entity to stop the further advance of DAESH, which was able to quickly occupy the northern Iraqi province of Mosul in June that year.

The new umbrella organisation for at least 40 different Shiite militias has been directly financed by the Iraqi government and attached to its interior ministry.  

It is claimed that the new Hashd al Shaabi has been turning into “a permanent force” under Iranian influence, “resembling the Iranian Revolutionary Guard” according to a research group Global Security. 

TRTWorld, Reuters