Iraqi group Popular Mobilization Units has delivered a counterblast to the Turkish president who had called the volunteer force fighting Daesh a “terrorist organization” and part of Iran’s regional policy.
The group, known as Hashd al-Sha’abi by its Arabic name, has joined forces with the Iraqi government against Daesh terrorists.
Last November, the Iraqi Parliament approved a law, giving legal status to the fighters and recognizing them as part of the national armed forces.
On Wednesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made incendiary remarks about the fighters in an interview with Doha-based al-Jazeera television channel, calling the group a terrorist organization supported by Iran.
“Who are the Hashd al-Sha'abi? Who is backing them? The Iraqi Parliament supports Hashd al-Sha’abi, but, honestly, they are a terrorist organization and should be known who stands behind it,” he said before adding he believed that the fighters were part of a “Persian expansion policy.”
The accusations prompted Hashd al-Sha'abi spokesman Ahmad al-Assadi to issue an angry reposte on Sunday, saying Erodgan had clearly targeted the Arab country and its leadership.
“Who has given Erdogan the right to intervene in Iraq’s internal affairs? Iraq is a democratic country with institutions elected by its people. No one has the right to intervene in Iraq’s domestic affairs,” he said.
As for the Turkish president's Iran bashing, Assadi said, "The Iranian government is assisting Iraq in the fight against terrorism within legal frameworks.”
The Islamic Republic has been providing military advisory support to Iraq and Syria at the request of their governments. Several Iraqi leaders have said that had it not been for Iran's assistance, Daesh would have overrun Baghdad.
“Iran’s policy vis-à-vis regional issues is completely transparent and clear. It helps the new and democratic Iraq in the fight against Daesh,” Assadi said.
Iraq and Syria, he said, are now paying the price for Daesh’s reign of terror in the region as he took an indirect jab at Ankara over its alleged support for Takfiri and other militant outfits.
Erdogan’s comments surprised Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and prompted the Arab nation's Foreign Ministry to summon the Turkish ambassador to Baghdad and hand him a formal protest note.
Diplomatic relations between Ankara and Baghdad have taken a nosedive since Turkey sent around 2,000 troops into northern Iraq in December 2015.
The deployment drew harsh criticism from Iraqi leaders and political parties, warning that it could trigger a war between the two neighbors.