The United States warned on Monday that it will do everything possible “to deter the Shia militias” aligned with Iran from attacking US interests in Iraq, and said the Iranian regime should take these warnings “seriously” in the aftermath of the killing of Qassem Soleimani.
“We’re still going to do everything we can to deter the Shia militias from attacking us. We also obviously saw as it started with the attacks that were sponsored by Iranian militias… attacking our embassy back in the beginning of the year. And now, we’re starting to see and continue to see more of this activity start to creep up again,” said Morgan Ortagus, spokesperson of the US State Department in an interview with Nadia Bilbassy, Al Arabiya correspondent in Washington.
She warned that Washington will hold the Iranian regime accountable for any actions by “the Shia militias” in Iraq against US interests, reminding of the US attack that killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani on January 3, in Baghdad.
“The Iranian regime should know that we will hold them accountable for any actions that their Shia militias take in Iraq," Ortagus said. "We were serious at the beginning of the year when we warned them on this before we killed Qassem Soleimani and we’re serious about it now, and they need to take those warnings seriously."
US calls for an Iraqi government represented by all sides
In a wide-ranging interview, Ortagus reaffirmed the US support for the Iraqi people following the countrywide protests that erupted since last fall.
“One of the things that is most important for us is that the killing of innocent protesters in Iraq," said Ortagus. "You know, we have seen a lot of protests around Iraq, and we understand that people are frustrated with their government. It’s one of the reasons that you’ve seen a change in leadership and that we saw the last prime minister resign.”
She added that the newly-designated prime minister should form a representative government comprising all political groups.
“The next prime minister needs to be open to bringing all parties to the table: Sunni, Shia, Kurds, and everyone. We need a unifying presence in the central government in Iraq, and so we think the stability and security of Iraq, and especially the central government, is important. We will continue to work on that relationship quite closely,” Ortagus said.
American-Saudi historical relations
In regard to the historical relations between the US and Saudi Arabia, the spokesperson reiterated the US commitment to stand with the Kingdom.
“Saudi Arabia is the bulwark of our relationship, especially when it comes to Iran, and without the partnership of Saudi Arabia and our other Gulf allies, we would not be able to have the maximum economic pressure campaign that we have,” Ortagus said.
“But I do think it is important to notice as much as we have a relationship that is very much focused on the same policy toward Iran, we know that Tehran seeks to exert its malign influence Saudi Arabia," she said. "So we know that weapons that are Iranian supplies to the Houthis are constantly aimed at Saudi Arabia, constantly trying to hit civilian airports, oil fields, and other infrastructure.”
Ortagus also brought up the recent visit by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Saudi Arabia where he also visited American troops stationed there.
“I see his eyes light up whenever he goes and visits our troops overseas. It was important for us and to talk to people who are newly stationed there to talk to them. They’re really on the front lines and figuring out how we continue to pressure and deter the regime in Iran, I mean that’s why our troops are there,” she said.
Idlib offensive by Syrian and Russian forces
The spokesperson criticized the Syrian regime forces who are trying to seize back control of the last large opposition-held province of Idlib with the support of Russia and Iranian-backed militias, saying the only solution to the conflict in Syria is through a political solution.
“It’s just disgusting what the Russians and the Iranians, and the Assad regime are doing," Ortagus said. "There’s almost nothing more disgusting on the planet than what’s going on right now in Idlib.”
She added that the State Department continues to work with the United Nations in this regard, pointing to the recent visit by US Special Envoy for Syria James Jeffrey to Turkey.
“We continue to work through the United Nations; Ambassador Jeffrey has been in Turkey. And as we have said during the many years of this conflict, we will never be able to solve this militarily. We need a political resolution,” she said.
She said that the Russians and others are trying to “have a military end to this war and what they’re doing is causing one of the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.”SHOW MORE