On Tuesday, President Obama delivered a warning to the Iranian regime, one that urged them to respect Iraqi sovereignty, over the fight against Islamic State militants. After a White House meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, he said that Shiite fighters, ones that are backed by Iran and now battling the ISIS troops, should be directly answerable to government of Iraq.
President Obama said it was understandable that Iraq and its neighbor Iran, both Shia majority countries would cooperate in the fight against ISIS. However for him, any foreign assistance must be under the unified control of the Iraqi government, where he said that “Any foreign assistance that is helping defeat [IS] has to go through the Iraq government. That’s how you respect Iraqi sovereignty”.
Concern over the Iranian presence in Iraq was expected to be a feature in the Obama-Abadi talks, where both of them discussed Iran’s role in Iraq at great length.
Abadi is on his first trip to Washington, since becoming prime minister last September, where this meeting with Obama is meant to convey a U.S. stamp of approval for a leader, who has sought to be more inclusive than his predecessor in governing Iraq. He made it very clear that his country would respect other countries’ sovereignty and expected the same. Eager to bring all of the fighters in Iraq under state control, he claimed that he was mindful of regional countries had their own interests, which he respected. However, he also welcomed any assistance that they would offer, provided that there would be no transgression, on Iraqi sovereignty. For him “This is a war that is fought with Iraqi blood with help from the coalition forces and regional countries.”
Abadi made it clear that they needed support from the U.S. and the coalition forces, where President Obama and the U.S. administration have expressed full readiness to provide support for their security forces in their effort to liberate all of Iraq. President Obama also announced $200 million in additional U.S. humanitarian aid to Iraq but declined to say whether Washington would provide Apache helicopters and other arms to Baghdad.
While the two men met inside the White House, demonstrators protested outside, pushing Obama to give Iraqis more support to fight IS militants and reduce Iraq’s dependence on Iran. These protesters said Tehran exercises massive power in Iraq and they want the U.S. to encourage Abadi to distance himself from Iran, given that it is a great threat to the security of its neighbors. These demonstrators, ones that were against the Iranian regime, also pushed for Camp Liberty in Iraq, an Iranian dissident camp, to be declared a refugee camp under United Nations’ supervision, so that would relive Abadi from regime’s pressure.