Euronews 10 Jan 2020

Pope Francis: "US-Iran tensions threaten rebuilding of Iraq"


Pope Francis on Thursday warned that increasing tensions between the US and Iran were setting the stage for a broader conflict in the Middle East while jeopardising efforts to rebuild Iraq.
#PopeFrancis #USIranCrisis

Tensions between the United States and Iran escalated in early January after US President Donald Trump ordered the killing of top Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani.

The attack also killed Iraq's Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of Iran-backed militias known as the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF).

In response, Iran fired more than a dozen missiles at two US bases.

All of that was happening on Iraqi soil, a nation once again caught up between a regional giant and a military superpower.

Trump is adamant that the attack was "self-defence" and that Soleimani posed an imminent threat - which was contradicted by Iran and the Iraqi prime minister.

And Iran says it's delivered "a slap in the face" with a missile strike which will usher in the end of US presence in the Middle East.

So is the latest US-Iran crisis really over? Will the US heed calls for its forces to leave Iraq?

Al Jazeera was given rare access to the sprawling Ain al-Assad base after the Iranian strike. We asked the US-led coalition if the threats from Iran-backed militias still loom. And in a rare TV appearance, Mohammad Mohie, spokesman of the Iran-backed Shia paramilitary group Kataib Hezbollah, talks to Al Jazeera.

Asked about the US government calling Kataib Hezbollah a threat to Iraq's peace and security, Mohie says: "We are Iraqis and from Iraqi soil. We have confronted US troops; they were occupation troops according to the UN. After 2003, the US troops were occupation troops so it was the right of the Iraqi people to resist. And with our joint efforts we expelled US troops. So the return of the US troops to this area is stirring problems by inciting violence and supporting terrorist groups and Takfiris. Those groups threaten the security of the region, this is the main reason for instability in the Middle East and it is the main threat to everyone's security. We are the sons of this area, we have the right to defend it, to live in it peacefully."
Dozens of Iraqi Shiite militiamen and their supporters broke into the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad on Tuesday, angered over deadly U.S. airstrikes targeting the Iran-backed militia. (Dec. 31)
The EU scrambled to respond after tensions rose in the Middle East following the assassination of a top Iranian security official by a U.S. strike in Iraq.…
Four Iraqi soldiers have been injured after rockets were fired at Balad airbase on Sunday night.
The facility, north of Baghdad, also hosts American forces.
It comes amid heightened tensions between the United States and Iran, and the Iraqi parliament now wants to expel all foreign troops.
But in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq, there are fears any withdrawal could lead to a resurgence of ISIL (ISIS).

Al Jazeera's Hoda Abdel-Hamid reports from Qara Chokh mountain range in northern Iraq.

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