Iraq dismisses US call for Iranian-backed militias to 'go home'


BAGHDAD — The Iraqi government has dismissed a call from US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for Iranian-backed paramilitary units that helped Baghdad defeat Daesh (the so-called IS) to end operations in Iraq.

Tillerson said in a press conference on Sunday that it was time for the Iraqi Popular Mobilization forces and their Iranian advisers to "go home". Washington, which backed Baghdad against Daesh, is concerned Iran will use its expanded presence in Iraq and in Syria to expand its influence in the region.

But Abadi showed unwillingness to meet Tillerson's demand.

"No party has the right to interfere in Iraqi matters," the statement from his office read. It did not cite the prime minister himself but a "source" close to him.

Trained and armed by Iran, the Iraqi Popular Mobilization forces often supported Iraqi government units in the fight against the militants who were effectively defeated in July when a US-backed offensive captured their stronghold Mosul.

The office of Abadi said the forces were under the authority of the Iraqi government. "Popular Mobilization are Iraqi patriots," it said in the statement.

The United States trained tens of thousands of Iraqi soldiers in the course of rebuilding the Iraqi armed forces and has over 5,000 troops deployed in the country, providing key air and ground support to the offensive on Daesh.

Meanwhile, Iraq's prime minister and an influential Shiite cleric visited Jordan.

Late Sunday, the office of influential Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr announced that he met Jordan's Prince Ghazi. Al-Sadr has in the past called for Shiite militias in Iraq to disband.

Meanwhile, Jordan's King Abdullah II held talks late Sunday with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi. — Agencies