Iraq condemns US designation of Iran's elite guards as terrorist organisiation

Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi says Washington's move could have negative repercussions

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Iraq has warned Washington against designating Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a terrorist group, claiming that the decision could shake the region, Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said on Tuesday evening.

The announcement made by the premier comes after the US branded the IRGC a foreign terrorist organisation in a bid to highlight Tehran’s alleged efforts to destabilise the Middle East by supporting non-state armed groups.

“We tried to stop the American decision. We reached out to all sides, to the US and the Saudis,” Mr Abdul Mahdi said during his weekly press conference.

Washington's decision, he said, "could have negative repercussions on Iraq and the region".

The official said that Iraq would use all its efforts to bring stability to the region since it maintains good relations with the country’s two major allies, Tehran and Washington.

“Any escalation in the region would make us all losers,” he said.

Iraq is caught between two arch-enemies, as it seeks acceptance from both the US and Iran.

Tensions escalated between the two after US President Donald Trump decided to withdraw from an international Iran nuclear pact and imposed economic sanctions on Tehran last year.

But Mr Abdul Mahdi vowed that Baghdad will maintain good relations with both states.

“Iraq today is playing a strong and positive role in addressing the challenges facing the region,” he said, adding that Baghdad will not be part of any international disputes.

“This is a fundamental principle of Iraq’ foreign policy,” he said.

Although Baghdad is attempting to take a neutral stance in the region, the Iraqi premier seems to be attentive towards Tehran's needs.

Mr Abdul Mahdi recently visited Tehran and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani made a historic trip to Baghdad last month.

But Washington has said that Iran spends nearly a billion dollars a year to support terrorism, a State Department Official told The National.

“It continues to provide funding to many designated terrorist groups in Iraq, including Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH) and Harakat Al Nujaba (HAN),” said the official, adding that Iran is responsible for 603 US personnel causalities in Iraq.

Militia groups in Iraq are regarded by the US as among the biggest threats to the region’s security. They are backed and trained by Iran and in 2014 fought alongside the Iraqi army to combat ISIS.

They became a formal part of Iraq’s security forces in 2016, and part of their mission is to ensure that American forces withdrawal from Iraq.

US Special representative to Iran Brian Hook said last week during a State Department Press Briefing that Tehran is to blame for 17 per cent of US service personnel deaths, having supplied weaponry to Shiite militias operating in Iraq.

“These casualties were the result of explosively formed penetrators (EFP), other improvised explosive devices (IED), improvised rocket-assisted munitions (IRAM), rockets, mortars, rocket-propelled grenades (RPG), small-arms, sniper, and other attacks in Iraq,” the State Department official said.

Meanwhile, the US’s decision was hailed by Saudi Arabia, the country accuses Iran of interfering in its internal affairs and of attempting to create instability throughout the Middle East.

"The US decision translates the kingdom's repeated demands to the international community of the necessity of confronting terrorism supported by Iran," a Saudi Foreign Ministry source told Spa.

Iran has denied the accusations made by the US and responded by branding American forces in the region as a terror organisation.