Iraqi PM calls for 'regional equilibrium' involving Iraq

Iraqi PM calls for 'regional equilibrium' involving Iraq
The Iraqi premier said that “stability” is possible once “the regional equilibrium” of which his country forms a key pillar is restored, the same day he presided over a parade of the Hashed Shabi, a paramilitary network dominated by pro-Iran militia.
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His statement came ahead of a three-way summit later this month which will see Baghdad hosting Egyptian President Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi and Jordanian King Abdullah II [Getty]

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustapha Al-Kadhimi has said that "stability" is possible once "the regional equilibrium" of which his country forms a key pillar is restored.

His statement came ahead of a three-way summit later this month which will see Baghdad host Egyptian President Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi and Jordanian King Abdullah II. Their talks will cover issues of trade, counter-terrorism and border security.

"Positive signs are emerging throughout our region which indicate the beginning of a de-escalation of crises," Kadhimi said on Saturday, according to state media.

He was likely referring to Iraq's role in facilitating direct talks between regional-rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia, which come amid a drawdown of the US military presence in the region.

Kadhimi said that Iraq had experienced a "bitter past" whose consequences were felt across the region and that its recovery was part that of the wider region.

The remarks came on the same day a parade was held marking the seven-year anniversary of the formation of an umbrella network of the state-sponsored paramilitary forces in Iraq, the Hashed Shaabi, presided over by Kadhimi.

Known in English as the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), the Hashed fought to defeat the Islamic State militant group, but its composite militias have been accused of involvement in the sectarian killings and displacement of Sunni Iraqis.

Top Iraqi officials were in attendance in the parade, along with swathes of lawmakers, at the event held in Iraq’s eastern Diyala governate.

Sources close to the matter told The New Arab that a handful of hardline pro-Iran groups, who now dominate the PMF, appeared to boycott the event. They included the Kataeb Hezbollah, Nujaba and the Asai’b Ahl al-Haq – all of whom have been embroiled in simmering tensions with Kadhimi.

The parade was reportedly planned for two weeks prior but delayed due to disagreements between Hashed leaders and Al-Kadhimi.

Last month, the premier ordered the arrest of militia commander Qasem Musleh after allegations he ordered the killing of a prominent activist. The incident triggered a tense standoff between the premier on one side and pro-Iran militants on the other. Kadhimi later set Muslih free when a judge found "insufficient evidence" in his case.

Also absent at the parade on Saturday were militia loyal to Iraqi cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr, seen by some experts as the main rival to the Hashed.

After the event, Kadhimi tweeted to hail the unity of all of Iraq's armed forces, including the incorporated Hashed: "Today we attended the parade of our sons in the Hashed Al-Shaabi…our efforts are united under the flag of Iraq and protecting its land and people is our duty".

Photos posted to official Iraqi social media show Kadhimi flanked by his national security advisor Qasem Al-Araji, as well as Faleh Al-Fayyad, the leader of the Hashed and its US-sanctioned chief of staff, Abu Fadak. Militia fighters are seen carrying arms, in addition to tanks, heavy weapons and armoured personnel carriers.

The parade took place at a camp formerly the headquarters of exiled Iranian opposite group the People’s Mujahedin in Iran, near the town of Al Khalis.