Saudi Arabia on Monday hit back at Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki for accusing the kingdom of supporting terrorism.
The Saudi Press Agency (SPA) quoted an official source as expressing “dismay and surprise” at the “aggressive and irresponsible statements” issued by Maliki on Sunday, in which he accused the kingdom of supporting terrorism.
“Nuri al-Maliki knows very well, before anyone else, the Kingdom’s clear and cut position against terrorism in all its forms and whatever its source. He also knows well the major efforts undertaken by the Kingdom in the fight against this phenomenonon the local and global levels.”
The source affirmed that the kingdom is as “the forefront” of fighting terrorism, urging Maliki to focus more on saving his country Iraq from “chaos and daily violence.”
The source said Maliki’s statements were meant to cover his domestic failures and his policies, which “placed Iraq in the service of regional actors.”
In an interview on France 24 TV Saturday evening, Maliki accused Saudi Arabia and Qatar of openly funding the Sunni Muslim insurgents his troops are battling in western Anbar province, in his strongest such statement since fighting started there early this year.
The Shiite prime minister who has ruled Iraq since 2006, said that the two countries were “attacking Iraq indirectly via Syria,” adding, they have “declared war” against Iraq the same way they did against Syria, on “sectarian and political grounds.”
Maliki's remarks play to Iraqi fears of the Sunni Arab states as he tries to burnish his standing as a defender of the mainly Shi'ite country before elections at the end of April.
The Iraqi leader also blamed both countries for launching Syria's three-year civil war through al-Qaeda-linked groups that now operate on both sides of the Iraqi-Syrian border, next to Anbar.
Maliki has long had chilly relations with the Gulf states, who view him as too close to Iran, and has long suspected them of funding al-Qaeda-linked groups in order to bring down his Shi'ite-led government.
Surge in violence
Security forces have been fighting insurgents from the al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and the Syria (ISIS) in Anbar's two main cities - Fallujah and Ramadi - since January after the arrest of a Sunni lawmaker and the clearing of an anti-government protest camp prompted a tribal revolt and allowed ISIS to set up fighting positions in the cities.
Violence has escalated in the last 12 months - ISIS has led a devastating campaign of suicide bombings since mid-2013 - and Maliki said in a mid-February speech that Saudi Arabia and Qatar were offering money to recruit fighters in Fallujah.
More than 700 people died in violence in Iraq in February, not including nearly 300 reported deaths in western Anbar province and last year was the deadliest year since 2008 with nearly 8,000 being killed.
[With Reuters]SHOW MORE