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Iraq blasts US for statements on Iranian-backed militias

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The Iraqi Foreign Ministry has issued a rare rebuke of its American ally, asserting that a U.S. Twitter posting concerning neighboring Iran “goes beyond diplomatic norms” and represents an “interference” in Iraq’s internal affairs.

In a Twitter posting on October 30, still on its account, the U.S. State Department told Iran it must “permit the disarming, demobilization, and reintegration of Shi’a militias” operating in Iraq.

In a statement issued on November 3, the ministry called on the U.S. to delete the comments and “to avoid their recurrence in the future and to observe the rules of international law.”

The statement said the move was one of the requirements set down for Iran to “behave like a normal state” and avoid the effects of fresh sanctions that will come into force on November 5.

Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias operating in Iraq took part in the U.S.-led campaign to drive the Islamic State (IS) militant group from Iraqi territory.

Iraq has since formally integrated many of the militias into its security forces, but the United States has demanded that militias be disarmed and disbanded.

The Foreign Ministry said it “would like to point out that…the statement [concerning the militias] goes beyond diplomatic norms and mutual respect for the sovereignty of states as a well-established principle of international law.”

Iraq has attempted to balance its relations with the United States, which provides financial and military support, and Iran, which carries significant influence with members of Iraq’s Shi’ite population.

The U.S. administration on November 2 announced it was reimposing sanctions to take effect on November 5 against Tehran, targeting the energy, shipbuilding, shipping, and financial sectors.

The sanctions were lifted under the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran in exchange for curbs on Tehran’s nuclear activities.

U.S. President Donald Trump in May pulled out of the pact and in August began reintroducing sanctions on the Iranian economy, saying the terms of the accord were not strict enough to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons and accusing Tehran of supporting militant activity in the region. Iran denies the allegations.

U.S. officials said they were granting temporary waivers to some countries to allow them to continue to import Iranian energy products to avoid economic hardships.

Iraqi officials said they have received such a waiver, although U.S. officials have not confirmed the remarks.