Iraqi President Barham Salih and his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad have underlined the need for their countries to work together to confront common dangers, especially terrorism.
“President Salih made a phone call today, with al-Assad, where they discussed bilateral relations between the two neighboring countries and the two brotherly peoples who have close historical, geographical and social ties, in addition to discussing challenges,” the Iraqi News Agency (INA) reported on Thursday, citing the media office of the Iraqi president.
They underlined the need to “join hands together in the face of common dangers, especially terrorism and combating its remnants that seek to destabilize security and stability in the two countries and the region, and not allow terrorist groups to catch their breath and exploit loopholes to carry out their criminal acts.”
According to Syria’s official news agency SANA, the two sides stressed the necessity of joint cooperation to consolidate the positive outcomes achieved in the fight against terrorist groups along the Syrian-Iraqi border regions.
Iraq and Syria, in recent years, have been faced with the emergence of foreign-backed terrorist groups, out of which Daesh popped up and dramatically deteriorated the situation in both countries.
Resistance forces of the two Arab nations, such as Iraq’s anti-terror Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) which is composed of dozens of groups, have successfully dealt with terrorism, ridding both countries of Daesh and other terrorists, while their struggle to eradicate the remnants of the terrorists continues.
The US and Israel, however, have conducted countless strikes against Iraqi and Syrian resistance forces in recent years, trying to hold them back in their fight against terrorism.
US President Joe Biden’s first military strike abroad was against the anti-terror PMU at the Iraqi-Syrian border back in February, only a month into his presidency. Biden also ordered airstrikes against the headquarters of the 14th Brigade of the PMU, also known as Hashd al-Sha’abi, along Iraq and Syria’s common border last month.
Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, also committed his most dangerous military aggression in Iraq by assassinating Iran’s top anti-terror commander, General Qassem Soleimani, along with deputy commander of the PMU, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, over a year earlier on January 3, 2020.
Trump’s reckless attack at the time prompted the Iraqi parliament to demand the expulsion of all US-led foreign troops from the Arab country.
Biden’s provocative raid last month drew sharp rebukes from Iraqi President Salih and the country’s Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi, who said the attack was a flagrant violation of Iraq’s sovereignty.
US forces to leave Iraq
The office of the Iraqi prime minister said that al-Kadhemi and Biden’s Special Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa Brett McGurk discussed on Thursday the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, a move increasingly demanded by Iraqi resistance forces.
“Discussions took place about mechanisms for (US) combat troops’ withdrawal from Iraq, and moving forward to a new stage in strategic cooperation,” the prime minister’s office said in a statement.
Al-Kadhemi is scheduled to visit Washington later this month to push for a concrete timetable of troop withdrawal.
Some 3,500 foreign troops, including 2,500 Americans, are still in Iraq, with the alleged aim of preventing the re-emergence of Daesh in the Arab country.
Observers, however, say Washington’s targeting of resistance forces is aimed at reviving Daesh and, in turn, prolonging its illegal occupation of Iraq under the pretext of fighting the terrorist group.
Such a US military presence also exists in Syria, where the Pentagon’s mission is not coordinated with the Damascus government, and while there is no clear timetable for withdrawal.