Iraq's PM 'dancing with snakes' between US and Iran

Iraq's PM says he is 'dancing with snakes' caught between Iran and US
3 min read
23 October, 2020
Prime Minister Kadhimi said Iraq is walking a tight rope between Iran and US, as relations deteriorate between the two countries.
Iraqi PM Mustafa al-Kadhimi met with his British counterpart Boris Johnson on Thursday [Getty]


Iraqi prime minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi said Iraq has been put in a difficult position between Iran and the United States, as the tension between the two countries grows.

In a press briefing after meeting UK prime minister Boris Johnson, he said "I am on a rope between two tall buildings.

"I am not required to walk on the rope, but to ride a bike on the rope. I dance on a daily basis with the snakes but I am looking for a flute to control the snakes."

He went on to tell reporters that the Iraq election on 6 June next year is "indisputable", adding that his policy of caution prevents conflict in the war-torn country.

"1,000 years of discussion is better than one moment of exchange of fire."

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threatened at the end of last month to shutter the American embassy in Baghdad if the Iraqi government did not stop attacks by pro-Iran Shia militants, raising the spectre that Washington may start opting to conduct diplomacy by drone strikes.

The warning comes as the Iraqi prime minister confirmed that at least 2,500 US soldiers had been withdrawn from Iraq.

Despite Kadhimi celebrating this as a diplomatic success, his cabinet, including foreign minister Fuad Hussein stated that his country was "not happy" by the US’ "dangerous" threats to abandon diplomacy in the country.

Kadhimi said he wants to continue having a dialogue with the US.

"Everyone is seeking an opportunity for dialogue," he said.

"We are seeking an opportunity to go beyond this sensitive issue and its implications, whoever is in the White House".

He also promised that he will reel in Iran-backed militia and "any weapon outside the control of the state will not be allowed".

Sanctions

The US on Thursday imposed sanctions on Iran’s ambassador to Iraq, the Treasury Department said in a statement.

"Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) is designating Iraj Masjedi, a general in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) and Iran’s Ambassador to Iraq, for acting for or on behalf of the IRGC-QF. A close adviser to former IRGC-QF Commander Qassem Soleimani, Masjedi played a formative role in the IRGC-QF’s Iraq policy," it said.

Read more: The Iraq Report: US troop withdrawal raises the spectre of drone warfare

Masjedi was accused of using his position to "obfuscate financial transfers conducted for the benefit of the IRGC-QF", and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin accused Iran of appointing officials to "carry out their destabilising foreign agenda".

"The United States will continue to employ the tools and authorities at its disposal to target the Iranian regime and IRGC-QF officials that attempt to meddle in the affairs of sovereign nations, including any attempts to influence US elections," Mnuchin added.

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