US Secretary Of State Mike Pompeo (center), National Security Adviser John Bolton and United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley brief the media during the United Nations General Assembly on September 24, 2018 in New York City. Photo: Stephanie Keith | AFP
UNITED NATIONS, New York — US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo underscored that Washington is working to ensure the voice of the Iraqi electorate is reflected in the next government in Baghdad outside of Iranian influence and is a “national government.”
“This administration took over at a time when Qassem Soleimani and the Ayatollah were running rampant through five capitals in the Middle East,” said Pompeo on Monday, labelling Iran the “largest state sponsor of terror.”
US diplomats including Special Presidential Envoy Brett McGurk — a rare holdover from President Barack Obama’s administration — have actively been meeting with political forces in Iraq.
The US has blamed Iranian proxies in Iraq for targetting diplomatic missions in Basra and the capital.
“We will not continue to accept Iran’s bad behavior in Iraq,” said Pompeo.
Two distinct blocs emerged after the election: one that includes incumbent Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and winning list leader Muqtada al-Sadr, while another that includes Hadi al-Amiri and former PM Nouri al-Maliki is seen as under Tehran’s thumb.
“We have been working to achieve a government that is an ‘Iraqi national government,’ ” said Pompeo.
On Monday, the Abadi-led Coalition for Reform and Development (CRD) formed, encouraging “Kurdish partners” to unify.
The largest Kurdistani parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), are yet to support Abadi or Maliki’s camps.
“And we are hoping that the leaders… The people of Iraq have spoken, they had their chance to vote and now they are in the process of forming a new government and we are working diligently to make sure Iraq’s people — the voice that they gave during their election is who ends up in leadership there,” added Pompeo.
Pompeo was speaking at a press conference ahead of the UN General Assembly in New York with National Security Advisor John Bolton and Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley.
Under Trump, Washington has pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal, imposed trade sanctions, and announced energy sanctions which will go into effect in November. However, Bolton claimed the goal is not to topple the Islamic Republic.
“Regime change in Iran is not the administration’s policy,” said Bolton pointing to sanctions against Iran. “More are coming.”
“What we expect from Iran are massive changes in their behavior,” Bolton said. “And until that happens we will continue to exert what the president called ‘maximum pressure.’ That’s what we intend to do.”
The new Iraqi parliament will convene on October 2 to select a new president. The presidency has traditionally gone to the PUK and they have appointed Barham Salih as their candidate. The KDP argues because of their seven-seat advantage, Fuad Hussein should get the post.