US will not hesitate to sanction Iraqi officials, says White House official
The United States would impose sanctions if Iraqi officials were found to be involved in the crackdown on demonstrations, a senior White House official told Al Arabiya English, noting that Washington knew that Iranian General Qassem Soleimani was behind the suppression of the protests and had been to Baghdad.
Soleimani is the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps - Quds Force.
In an exclusive interview, the US official said: “The situation in Iraq is pretty bad. It is so sad to see so many young people shot dead.”
He said that the US does not want to give the impression that the United States is intervening in Iraq because some will use this and use it as evidence of Western intervention and this is the case In Lebanon, where we are accused of being behind the demonstrations.
Washington knows that Iran was behind the attempts to suppress the revolutions, he said.
“The Iranian intervention in Iraq is clear and we know that Qassem Soleimani went to Baghdad and told the government how to crush protestors. … the Iranians have a pretty well-established mechanism for doing that. And, you know, we have open-source reporting of snipers shooting protesters.”
“We were really intrigued yesterday by the story about the Iraqi national football team beating the Iranians and the soccer players wearing masks in solidarity with the protesters. And that’s a symbolic thing but it can, I think, really focus international attention. And I think that’s what we want to do.” the official said.
He said they discussed the demonstrations in Iraq as well as the situation in Lebanon and Syria at the meeting of the strategic alliance in the Middle East, known as Mesa, which includes the GCC countries along with Egypt and Jordan “in order to come up with a unified international response on Iraq.”
“We appreciate the role of the United Nations mission in Iraq. And I think that enlarging their mandate and having them support new elections, and revising the Iraqi electoral law so that the mechanism of government is more effective and responsive is another good tool that isn’t just the United States," he said.
“But we want to find other ways to support the demonstrators and I think they are in providing American medical assistance to the demonstrators.”
"We see a reaction from the Iraqi people and the demonstrators, which is hostile to Iran in nature, and it will be difficult to arrest them only with a campaign of violence and arrests. This will be condemned in the Security Council and by the international community. If there is a campaign to suppress the demonstration, I think this will unite the international community to impose quick sanctions on Iran ".
“This may be the best way to reverse Iran's influence in Iraq," the official said.
“We will not hesitate to impose sanctions on Iraqi officials, including blocking the entry of the United States and freezing their assets. We have done this in the past with one of our NATO allies,” he said.
“We’re bound by the law not to provide security assistance to counterparts that are engaged in gross human rights violations. So, we’ve warned the Iraqi government and our counterparts in the Iraqi security forces. That if you take part in violent oppression of protesters, we are required by law to stop all of the foreign aid assistance given to the security forces which is considerable. If any evidence shows they are doing so, we will do so,” he said. “And it applies in Lebanon as it does in Iraq.”