Saudi Comments on Popular Mobilization Units Anger Iraqis

By Mustafa Saadoun for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Saudi ambassador's comments on Popular Mobilization Units stir ire of Iraqis

The Saudi ambassador to Baghdad, Thamer Sabhan, who was appointed to this position by Saudi Arabia on June 2, 2015, has become the most infamous ambassador in Baghdad. Iraqis have been talking extensively about him in the past few weeks because of his statements about the Popular Mobilization Units.

The State of Law Coalition considered these statements to be “a threat to civil peace,” while another Sunni bloc, the Alliance of Iraqi Forces, described Sabhan’s remarks as “very natural.”

On Jan. 23, Sabhan appeared in his first television interview with Al-Sumariya since he took office on Dec. 31, 2015. However, his statements sparked a wave of condemnation on both the popular and political levels in Iraq, prompting some political blocs to demand his expulsion from the country.

Sabhan said during the interview, “The refusal by the Kurds and [the Sunni province of] Anbar to let the Popular Mobilization Units come to their regions shows that these units are not accepted by Iraqi society.”

He also addressed a question to the Iraqi government, saying, “Would you accept the presence of forces that are as [much] armed as the Popular Mobilization Units in Shiite areas? And why are the Popular Mobilization Units the only ones being armed?”

The Saudi ambassador accused Iran of “blatantly interfering in the Iraqi internal affairs and of forming armed militias,” while stressing the need to “reach a radical solution to [eliminate] the environment that contributed to the emergence of the Islamic State (IS) and terrorism.”

He added, “The groups behind the attacks in Muqdadiyah are no different than IS, which begs the question: Where do the Popular Mobilization Units stand with regard to the Muqdadiyah incidents?”

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