Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in Tehran. (Photo: IRNA)
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – During Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s visit to Tehran, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei asked him not to dissolve the Iranian-backed Shia Hashd al-Shaabi militias, a source said on Saturday.
Two days ago, Abadi visited Tehran following his tour in neighboring countries as tensions between Erbil and Baghdad escalated.
“The Hashd al-Shaabi must not be dissolved,” al-Jarida, a Kuwaiti newspaper, quoted an informed source on what Khamenei told Abadi.
The report comes days after the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called on the Iranian militia groups to leave Iraq. In response, Abadi had pledged to disarm any Iraqi groups and factions that refused to obey the Iraqi government’s orders.
“The presence of the Hashd al-Shaabi is necessary until the end of all security problems in Iraq,” Khamenei told Abadi, according to the source.
“The Hashd al-Shaabi must be like [Iran’s] Basij [Organization for Mobilization of the Oppressed] to the government, and the reward for all their efforts should not be [a] dissolution,” Khamenei added.
Sazman-e Basij-e Mostaz’afin was established in 1980 by order of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini with the purpose of recruiting 20 million fighters for the organization.
The source stated that Abadi frankly told Khamenei of Washington’s determination to dissolve the Hashd al-Shaabi, also known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), and integrate them into the Iraqi armed forces so no troops would remain under the command of Tehran inside Iraq.
According to the source, Abadi told the Iranian Supreme Leader that Tillerson had assured him US President Donald Trump’s administration would continue to support the Federal Government of Iraq regarding issues with the Kurdistan Region.
The Iraqi PM also said the US would back the return of the Iraqi army’s control on all the territory in the country under the condition the PMF stopped their advance in the current areas which include disputed regions, the source added.
The Kurdistan Region Security Council (KRSC) recently accused Iran and the Shia PMF militias of attacking Peshmerga forces from four axes in the Zummar areas, northwest Mosul.
“Unity is the most important tool against the terrorists and their agents. Do not trust America; it will hurt you in the future,” Khamenei warned after Abadi’s recent visit to Riyadh where he signed a joint Washington-sponsored agreement of Coordination Council with Saudi Arabia.
Sources confirmed to the Kuwaiti newspaper that Abadi met the Iranian Commander of the Quds Force, General Qassem Soleimani, before leaving Tehran.
The two allegedly decided to coordinate so the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) would hand over the control of border crossings to the Iraqi government.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany