US calls counter-terrorism Iraqi forces 'terrorists'
Iran Press TV
Sat Oct 28, 2017 09:22AM
As an official branch of the Iraqi armed forces, the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), also known by its Arabic name Hashd al-Sha'abi, has been a bulwark against Daesh terrorism in Iraq soon after the terrorist group launched an offensive in the Arab country in 2014.
In the face of the lightning advance by the terrorist group that year, the Iraqi army initially seemed shaken. Regular Iraqi forces fled bases en masse, leaving weapons and vehicles to be comfortably picked up by the advancing Daesh terrorists.
While the Iraqi military soon regrouped, the then-freshly-established PMU was a critical element in maintaining security, establishing defenses particularly in protection of the capital, Baghdad.
In November 2016, the Iraqi parliament voted to integrate the PMU – initially a group of Iraqi Shia and Sunni Iraqi volunteer fighters – into the military. The group has now more than 100,000 fighters.
At a press briefing on Thursday, US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who is the PMU's second-in-command, was "a terrorist, and beyond that – I'm just not going to go beyond that."
Observers say the US is misrepresenting facts because it is angry at the PMU's success in disrupting American plots in the region.
Call a spade a spade!
On Friday, Iraqi Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Mahjoob rejected Nauert's remarks, saying her comments did not correspond with the reality and that she had to correct her remarks.
He said Hashd al-Sha'abi was an "inseparable" part of the Iraqi national forces, which had fought alongside them and made sacrifices in the anti-terror battle.
Additionally, PMU spokesman Ahmed al-Assadi said Nauert's characterization of Muhandis had been a "transgression" of Iraqi sovereignty, stressing that such remarks would not discourage the group.
Falih Fayyadh, a senior Hashd al-Sha'abi leader, also said Muhandis "has been a defender of the country and its fate and he's fought ISIS (Daesh) terrorists with honesty."
"The accusations of the State Department and especially at this time are rejected and useless and we are the ones valuing our personalities not others. Our Hashd al-Sha'abi will remain defenders of this country and its interests without any regard for those who reproach," he said.
On October 22, and speaking in the Saudi capital, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson referred to the PMU forces, which he thought were "foreign fighters," and said they had to "go home" now that Daesh was on its last legs in Iraq.
The office of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi criticized the top US diplomat's meddlesome comments, saying, "No party has the right to interfere in Iraqi matters."
Washington's opposition to Hashd al-Sha'abi – a national security force – comes as Washington supports groupings of militants that are operating in regional countries without the consent of national governments.
The US also stands accused of interacting with Daesh.
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