Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 6 July 2020

Iraq's President Barham Salih ignores militia warning and meets Trump at Davos

Mr Salih is expected to address the World Economic Forum on the recent US-Iran tensions on Wednesday

US President Donald Trump meets Iraq's President Barham Salih. The Presidency of the Republic of Iraq Office / Handout via Reuters
US President Donald Trump meets Iraq's President Barham Salih. The Presidency of the Republic of Iraq Office / Handout via Reuters

Iraqi President Barham Salih ignored threats from an Iran-backed Iraqi militia against meeting US President Donald Trump on Wednesday as the pair discussed support and American troop deployments.

Meeting on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Mr Trump said his administration would make a decision about the future of American forces in Iraq soon.

Iraq’s parliament voted to expel US forces from the country earlier this month and outgoing Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi asked Washington to work out a road map for their exit.

The US has rejected the request and has made no move to pull out the more than 5,000 soldiers in Iraq working on training and support to counter ISIS.

“We’ve had good relationship [with Iraq] and down to the lowest number historically and we’ve been there quite a while,” Mr Trump said during a meeting with his Iraqi counterpart.

“We’ll make a determination soon,” he said.

The Iraqi parliament vote followed an American drone strike that killed Iranian general Qassem Suleimani and Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi Al Muhandis earlier this month.

It was followed by retaliatory attacks by Iran.

Iraqi politicians say the US strike that killed the two officials were an unacceptable breach of Iraqi sovereignty.

Before the planned meeting, an Iraqi militia group threatened Mr Saleh, warning him not to sit down with Mr Trump.

Kataib Hezbollah, designated a terrorist group by the US, said that it would prevent Mr Salih from returning home if he meets his US counterpart.

“We stress the need for Barham Salih to not meet Trump and his vicious mob. If he meets with them then Iraqis will take a stand against him,” Abu Ali Al Askari, a high-ranking security official in Kataib Hezbollah, said on Twitter.

Kataib Hezbollah is an Iran-backed militia group that operates in Iraq.

“We will tell him that you are not welcome back and the public will oust him from the country,” Mr Al Askari said.

Mr Trump also met the President of the Kurdistan Regional Government Nechirvan Barzani in the Swiss town.

Mr Salih is due to address the forum on Wednesday.

Iraqi politician Hassan Salem, from the parliamentary bloc Sadikun that represents the political front of the Iran-backed Asaib Ahl Al Haq militia, also called on Mr Salih to forgo the meeting with the US president.

"We call on the president to refuse a meeting with Trump or any other American official at Davos in retaliation for the blood of martyrs and Iraq's sovereignty," Mr Salem said.

Tensions escalated between the US and Iran after an attack on the US embassy in Baghdad by supporters of Kataib Hezbollah in December.

It was in response to a US air strike that killed 25 members of the group.

Washington then launched a rocket attack that killed General Suleimani on January 3 and Mr Al Muhandis near Baghdad airport.

The Iranian general was key to the support and co-ordination of Tehran's proxies in the region, especially in Iraq.

Iran retaliated by launching dozens of missiles at two Iraqi bases hosting US forces. No causalities were reported.

Updated: January 22, 2020 04:24 PM

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