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Iraq: Saudi policies feeding regional tensions

Baghdad has warned Riyadh over its trouble making regional policies, stressing that it will not permit such interference in Iraq.

Iraqi Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Gamal made the remarks in a statement released on Tuesday in reaction to Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir saying that Iraq cannot realize unity with the presence of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU).

“Recurrent abusive remarks and accusations by the Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir of the heroes and sacrifices of al-Hashd al-Shaabi reflect that Saudis maintain their tense approach on Iraq, which is made on narrow, sectarian backgrounds,” said Gamal.

The PMU, also known as Hashd al-Shaabi forces, have played a major role in the liberation of Daesh-held areas to the south, northeast and north of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, ever since the terrorists launched an offensive in the country in June 2014.

Iraqi fighters from the Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Units) sit under an Iraqi flag as they advance towards the village of Shwah, south of the city of Tal Afar on the western outskirts of Mosul, on December 13, 2016.

Gamal added that the PMUs remain “a national, courageous combat force that operates within the limits of the law enacted by the parliament, and is one of the official security formations of the state.”

In November, the Iraqi parliament approved a law giving full legal status to Hashd al-Shaabi fighters. It recognized the PMU as part of the national armed forces, placed the volunteer fighters under the command of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, and granted them the right to receive salaries and pensions like the regular army and police forces.

An Iraqi fighter from the Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Units) sits next to weapons as they enter the village of Shwah, south of the city of Tal Afar on the western outskirts of Mosul, on December 13, 2016.

The Iraqi spokesman stressed that “many opportunities for positive and constructive communication with regional states” had been given to the Saudis, who’s policies are one of the main reasons behind continued tensions and crises in Yemen and Syria, “which we will not allow in Iraq.”

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