SHAFAQNA- Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir says recent controversial remarks made by the country’s ambassador to Iraq do not represent Riyadh’s official stance, in remarks that effectively put into question the nature of diplomatic appointments by Riyadh and, thus, the legitimacy of the envoy in Iraq.
Jubeir made the comments in a Sunday meeting with his Iraqi counterpart Ibrahim al-Jaafari on the sidelines of the Ministerial Meeting of Arab-India Cooperation Forum in the Bahraini capital, Manama.
In a televised interview aired by al-Sumeria satellite television on Saturday, the Saudi ambassador to Iraq, Thamer al-Sabhan – a first diplomat assigned to Iraq in 25 years – claimed that sectarianism and tribalism were the driving force behind the Iraqi government’s arming of the volunteer forces known as the Popular Mobilization Units or Hashid al-Shaabi. He also alleged that the Iraqi volunteer forces are not popular among Iraqi people.
The Iraqi Foreign Ministry summoned Sabhan on Sunday to register with him a strong note of protest.
Sabhan’s comment constitutes “a breach of diplomatic protocol and is based on inaccurate information,” the ministry said in a statement. “The Hashid Shaabi are fighting terrorism and defending the country’s sovereignty and acting under the umbrella and command of the commander-in-chief of the armed forces.”
Iraqi Transport Minister Baqir Jabr al-Zubeidi also strongly denounced the Saudi ambassador’s recent remarks, calling them a flagrant interference in Iraq’s internal affairs. He said that the Popular Mobilization Units have so far liberated at least 170 villages from Daesh militants while hundreds of its forces have been martyred or wounded in anti-terror operations.
In a statement on Saturday, and reacting to the comments, Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units spokesman, Ahmed al-Assadi, described Saudi Arabia as a supporter of terrorism.
The Popular Mobilization Units, which were formed after the rise of Daesh in Iraq in 2014, have joined forces with the army to win back militant-held regions. Violence has plagued the northern and western parts of Iraq ever since Daesh terrorists launched an offensive and captured parts of the Iraqi territory.