Maliki accuses Saudi Arabia of backing rebels

Saudi Arabia had accused Maliki’s ‘policies of marginalization and sectarianism’ for causing unrest in the country

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The Iraqi government of embattled Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki blamed Saudi Arabia on Tuesday for an expanding armed uprising led by Islamist militants and tribal forces against his rule.

A statement issued by Maliki’s office accused the kingdom of “siding with terrorism,” adding: “We strongly condemn this stance.”

“We hold it (Saudi Arabia) responsible for what these groups are receiving in terms of financial and moral support.”

It continued: “The Saudi government should be held responsible for the dangerous crimes committed by these terrorist groups.”

Commenting on Maliki’s accusations, Saudi journalist and political commentator Jamal Khashoggi said the embattled Iraqi premier is “desperately seeking to export his crisis to the outside world.”

“Maliki is the one who is responsible for what happened. He is the one who pushed the Sunni people to embrace Islamist militants," Khashoggi said.

"ISIS was never a choice for the people of Mosul and Anbar, but Maliki’s practices of exclusion and marginalization against moderate Sunni political forces competing with him in a democratic political process pushed the people to embrace to the extremists,” he added.

The statement came just days after Riyadh blamed Maliki’s “policies of marginalization and sectarianism” for the unrest that has swept the country.

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The unrest “could not have taken place if it was not for the sectarian and exclusionary policies implemented in Iraq over the past years that threatened its stability and sovereignty,” the Saudi government said in a statement on Monday.

Riyadh also called for the “formation of a national unity government as soon as possible in order to restore security and stability and avoid the policies built on religious and sectarian [provocation] that have been practiced in Iraq.”

The kingdom also rejected “any foreign interference in the internal affairs” of Iraq, stressing the need to “safeguard the sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity” of the country.

A senior Iraqi official told The Guardian on Saturday that Iran sent 2,000 advance troops to Iraq to help fight an extreme jihadist insurgency effectively seizing control of major cities in the country.

Around 1,500 basiji forces crossed the border into Khanaqin, a town in central Diyala province on Friday, while another 500 entered the Badra Jassan area in Wasat province overnight, according to the official.

Major General Qassem Suleimani, head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ elite Quds Force, had reportedly arrived to Baghdad to oversee defense operations in the capital.

Iranian President Hassan Rowhani announced Saturday that his country was ready to help Iraq fight the al-Qaeda-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an extremist-Sunni jihadist group effectively controlling major cities in the country.

Additionally, Rowhani declared that he would join forces with long-term enemy U.S. to defeat ISIS militants and local armed men fighting among their ranks.

But the Pentagon said it will not coordinate any possible military action with Tehran.

“There is absolutely no intention and no plan to coordinate military activity between the United States and Iran... there are no plans to have consultations with Iran about military activities in Iraq,” he told reporters,” Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said.

A U.S. warship entered the Gulf on Monday carrying hundreds of marines and Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft in case they are needed to protect Americans in Iraq, the Pentagon said.

[with AFP]

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