ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A senior Iraqi delegation has already met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus, according to Iraq’s Prime Minister, hinting on Sunday that his country aims to play a bigger role in Syria following the recent decision by the US to withdraw its troops from the war-torn country.
“This matter is quite complicated,” Adil Abdul-Mahdi told reporters, referring to US President Donald Trump’s surprise announcement this month that the US would pull out from Iraq’s neighboring state.
“If there are negative developments in Syria, it will affect us. We have a 600 km-long (400 miles) border with Syria, and Da’esh (the Islamic State) is there,” Abdul-Mahdi argued, quoted by Reuters.
He also mentioned that an Iraqi delegation had visited Damascus on Saturday, to “gain the initiative, not just deal with the consequences” of any activities related to IS that may erupt following the withdrawal of US troops.
The Iraqi premier stated his country wishes to increase its role in the fight against the jihadist group beyond the current agreement with Syria, which has been limited to launching air strikes on the latter’s IS-held territory. He did not offer any further details.
“There are groups operating in Syria, and Iraq is the best way to deal with this,” Abdul –Mahdi responded to questions about the future involvement of Iraqi forces in the country.
Iraqi Shia Muslim militia groups supported by Iran are already operating inside Syria, fighting alongside the Syrian government forces.
Some 2,000 jihadists are reportedly operating near the border of Syria, trying to cross into Iraq, according to the premier’s previous statements.
Iraq declared victory against IS in December 2017, but the jihadist group continues to launch insurgency attacks, ambushes, car bombs, and kidnappings in various parts of the country.
Editing by Nadia Riva