Saudi backing Baghdad will accelerate ISIS’s end: Araji (Asharq Al-Awsat)

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  • March 25, 2015
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Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—Saudi Arabia will re-open its embassy in Baghdad before the end of April, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Baha Araji told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat from the Saudi capital Riyadh, Araji praised the move, adding that this is an important step in normalizing relations between Saudi Arabia and Iraq, calling on everybody to forget the differences of opinion that existed between Riyadh and the former government of Nuri Al-Maliki.
The Maliki government was the subject of domestic and regional criticism for what many perceived as its pro-Iran and sectarian policies. However Araji stressed that the current government, headed by Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi, is prioritizing ensuring that Iraq returns to its “regional” surroundings.
Abadi is set to pay a state visit to Saudi Arabia within the coming days following an invitation from Saudi King Salman Bin Abdulaziz. The two leaders are expected to discuss strengthening bilateral ties, with Abadi seeking to secure greater material and logistical help for Iraq in its ongoing fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
“We are aware that Saudi Arabia possesses significant capabilities. Saudi Arabia standing with Iraq will accelerate ISIS’s elimination,” Araji said.
The Iraq Deputy Prime Minister also sought to reassure Arab fears regarding the presence of Iranian Quds Force commander Gen. Qassem Suleimani in Iraq. Pictures of the Iranian general inspecting troops in Tikrit emerged last week, raising questions as to his presence in the country.
Araji stressed that Suleimani is present in Iraq solely as a “military advisor,” in the same capacity as other Iranian and US military officials, adding that it was the former Nuri Al-Maliki government that hired him.
He also denounced a contentious statement by Iranian presidential adviser Ali Younesi describing Iraq as being part of Iran’s “empire,” saying that this represented clear encroachment on Iraqi sovereignty. He also denied that members of Lebanon’s Hezbollah are currently fighting in Iraq, adding that any members of the group are Iraqi nationals.
“The Iraqi people are proud of their Arab nature and nothing can touch this whatsoever,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat.He also praised the Iraqi forces latest victories against ISIS, with Iraqi troops, backed by National Mobilization forces, moving to recapture the city of Tikrit.
Araji said that it was the addition of the Shi’ite-led National Mobilization forces into the battle that allowed Baghdad to change the balance of power on the ground and allow Iraq’s military to regain the initiative.
However concerns have been raised regarding the presence of Shi’ite militia forces in predominantly Sunni-dominated areas of Iraq, with reports of sectarian massacres taking place. The Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister affirmed that some National Mobilization forces troops may have committed crimes, adding that these are being investigated and may have been exaggerated.