US foreign policy

US is not engaged in ‘open war’ with Iran-backed militias: State Department official

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The United States is not engaged in an “open war” with Iran-backed militias despite the latter ramping up attacks on US forces in the Middle East, a senior State Department official said Friday.

An uptick in militia attacks has been seen in recent weeks and months on US bases in Iraq and Syria, which have led US President Joe Biden to order retaliatory airstrikes. But the tit-for-tat moves do not insinuate an indirect.

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“I understand that some of these militias completely disagree with what the United States is trying to do in Iraq in fighting ISIS, but we’re asking them, we’re demanding, that they just leave us alone and we’ll leave them alone, so that we can fight this common enemy, which is ISIS,” Acting Assistant Secretary of State Joey Hood said.

In an interview with Al Arabiya, Hood hit out at Tehran’s proxies and militias for the recurring attacks, “which serve no one’s interest, and only allow ISIS more freedom to operate.”

Asked about Lebanon, Hood berated the political elites in Beirut, calling them a “clique that has been in control for far too long.”

But the US diplomat extended an olive branch to Lebanese officials and said that if they want to show “that they’re actually leaders,” they would need to form a government “right now” capable of implementing badly needed reforms.

“And if they do that, countries in Europe and the United States have all said we are ready to support with billions of dollars in assistance. But we will not throw money at this problem without seeing those fundamental changes that need to take place,” Hood said.

Washington will, however, continue to provide humanitarian aid to the Lebanese people who are suffering. “And it’s needless suffering brought on by a political class that doesn’t seem willing to make the compromises that it needs to make to just pursue the reforms that everyone knows that they need to pursue,” Hood said.

As for the Lebanese army, Hood said the US was coordinating with allies, including Saudi Arabia and France, to help. Calling the Lebanese army as a “linchpin to stability in the country,” Hood said: “We need to make sure that they at least have what they need to continue doing their jobs.”

Hood also discussed Libya and Syria during his interview with Al Arabiya.

In Libya, the US diplomat said Washington was in talks with its allies, including Turkey, for ways to ensure the withdrawal of foreign fighters and mercenaries.

He called for elections to take place on the scheduled date of December 24.

“And Libya is lucky because it doesn’t have a huge population, and it does have hydrocarbon resources. So it’s not for a destitute country. You can say it’s a failed state in terms of governance, but in terms of being able to fund its own redevelopment, that possibility is there,” Hood said.

Turning to Syria, Hood said the US was “not about regime change in Damascus” when asked if Washington was still demanding that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad be replaced.

“What we’re about is a UN-led political process that will lead to a Syrian government that is fully representative of his people and takes care of its people and doesn’t torture them, doesn’t put them in prison for their political views, doesn’t withhold assistance from them, doesn’t gas them and drop barrel bombs on them, as the Assad regime has done,” he said.

But the UN-led political process does not have a very good chance “right now, because Bashar is not taking it very seriously,” Hood said.

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