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‘We are not a launchpad for aggression': Iraqi president says keep regional proxy war out of Iraq

‘We are not a launchpad for aggression': Iraqi president says keep regional proxy war out of Iraq
Iraqi President Barham Salih has warned of the dangers of a new war in the Middle East, insisting that Iraq must not be drawn into another costly conflict by neighboring states looking for a fight.

Though he spoke with optimism about Iraq’s “promising future” before the UN General Assembly on Wednesday, Salih was emphatic about regional actors who seek to settle their disputes using Iraq as a battlefield, arguing that the country has seen enough bloodshed.

“We don’t want our country to be part of any regional or international conflict,” Salih told the assembly through a translator. “Nor do we want our country to be used to settle regional and international scores. Our people have paid a high price in wars and conflict.”

Iraq will not be a launching pad for aggression by any of our neighboring countries… We have had enough wars.

Saudi Arabia and Iran are likely the “neighboring countries” to which Salih referred, though he did not cite either by name.

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The president's warning comes in the wake of attacks on Saudi oil facilities earlier this month. While Yemen’s Houthi rebels claimed credit for the strikes, Riyadh and Washington soon pinned blame on Iran, insisting that the attacks bore the Islamic Republic’s fingerprints. One American official, speaking anonymously to CNN, also suggested the attacks may have been launched from Iraqi territory.

Iran has denied any connection to the incident.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met with Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi on Wednesday to discuss the attacks, among other issues. Beyond casting blame, Saudi officials say they are still considering how to respond.

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Turning to the issue of terrorism, President Salih also said Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) was an “evil plot to destroy Iraq and the region,” and commended the sacrifices of the Iraqi military and other allied armed groups in the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMFs), an umbrella group for largely Shia militias that fight alongside the military, some of which receive Iranian backing.

Tensions have mounted between Baghdad and Washington over what some Iraqi lawmakers say was a “weak” American response to mysterious strikes on PMF positions in recent weeks, which the militia group has blamed on Israel. Citing Tel Aviv’s involvement, last week Baghdad also rejected the prospect of participation in a US-led “maritime security mission” in the Persian Gulf.

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