Iraq-Saudi relations condemned by Kataib Hezbollah – Middle East Monitor

The Kataib Hezbollah militia has condemned Saudi Arabia for allegedly escalating sectarianism within Iraq. The Iran-backed Shia group has also criticised the Iraqi government for building relations with the Kingdom.

“The current [Iraqi] government,” said the militia in a media statement, “has pursued vague policies in its relations with foreign powers that have raised big question marks, especially that some of these parties had negative attitudes towards Iraq and its political system while others had a sabotage and conspiratorial role, and support terrorist groups.

“The group’s condemnation of the relations between the two states comes after Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi hosted the Saudi Foreign Minister in the capital Baghdad yesterday to discuss bilateral relations.

The surprise visit signalled the growing ties between Iraq and the Kingdom. Al-Kadhimi had to cancel his own visit to Riyadh on 20 July due to King Salman’s poor health. The two governments have also been working on projects to link Saudi and Gulf Cooperation Council power grids with Iraq’s in order to supply electricity. Moreover, joint investment agreements were signed last month to increase cooperation in numerous sectors, including energy, health and education.

Such ties worry the Iran-backed militias within Iraq operating under the banner of the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) which are funded, backed and trained by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). This is primarily due to concerns that they may undermine Iraq’s dependency on Iran for energy and other sectors.

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Kataib Hezbollah is the most powerful of those militias. “We denounce the visit of those whose hands are stained with the blood of our people,” it said. “Therefore, we accuse Al-Kadhimi and some political forces of submission to the American diktats, forfeiting the rights of the Iraqi people and underestimating the blood of the martyrs, the injured and affected by the crimes of Saudi Arabia and its gangs.”

The movement stressed that the Iraqi government and all political forces should have set initial standards for dealing with foreign countries and parties on the basis of their positions on this conspiracy and not to open up to any country that had a negative role. It also maintained that it refuses to establish “normal relations” with the “kingdom of evil” and accused Saudi Arabia of supporting Sunni militias and terror groups such as Daesh and Al-Qaeda over the years, as well as increasing sectarianism in Iraq.

“We categorically reject any openness to this country [Saudi Arabia] that does not take into account apologising for its crimes against Iraq, repudiating the fatwas of sectarian incitement issued by its religious institutions, and compensating Iraq and the families of the martyrs and the injured for what was caused by the terrorist groups that it supported and financed.”

Like other Shia militias under the PMF, Kataib Hezbollah has in turn been accused by many of attempting to influence the Iraqi government on behalf of Iran, and has successfully entered the political sphere over the years by participating in elections under a coalition and winning the second highest number of votes in the Iraqi parliament. The US-designated terrorist group has also carried out a series of assassinations in recent months, reportedly killing the security analyst Hisham Al-Hashimi last month and gunning down activists such as Reham Yacoub earlier this month.

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