A week after President Barack Obama appeared to snub Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi at the G7 Summit in Germany, Abadi met with top Iranian leaders in Tehran.
Abadi told Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that Iran’s support is essential in the fight against the Islamic State terror group, The Wall Street Journal reports.
This puts the US in a bit of a tricky spot considering the Shia militias supported by Iran that are fighting the Islamic State (also known as ISIS, ISIL, and Daesh) in Iraq are widely blamed for worsening sectarian tensions in the country.
The militias have been accused of committing atrocities against Sunni civilians in areas they liberate form ISIS, which could help turn some Sunnis toward ISIS, a Sunni group.
ISIS has been marketing itself as the only group that can and will protect Sunnis in Iraq and Syria. Iranian involvement in Iraq has reinforced this view.
The photo of the G7 “snub” juxtaposed with Abadi in Iran sum up the state of the fight against ISIS:
In the video of the incident, Abadi approaches the bench where Obama is sitting and sits down, looking over at him. Abadi sits there for a few awkward seconds while looking over at Obama, who doesn’t break his conversation with International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde and Italian Prime Minister Mario Renzi to acknowledge Abadi.
It’s quite a different scene than the one below showing Abadi in Iran:
At the meeting in Tehran, Khamenei told Abadi that the US was trying to “plunder Iraq’s wealth” and impose its will on the country, according to the Journal.
The statement is awkward for the US considering that Iraq is openly collaborating with Iran at the same time it is working with the US, which is sending troops to train Iraqi security forces while insisting that Sunnis are essential to winning the fight against ISIS.
Experts say that the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad has been reluctant to arm Sunnis out of fear that they might one day rise up against Baghdad.
This creates a problem for the US’ Sunni-inclusive strategy in Iraq, considering that Baghdad vets potential fighters for the Iraqi army, looking for connections to Sunni political leaders and Baathists who formerly supported Saddam Hussein, according to Michael Pregent, a terrorism analyst and former US Army intelligence officer in Iraq.
“The lack of trust in the Sunni community in Baghdad is really restricting what [the US] can do,” Pregent told Business Insider last week.
The White House has denied that Obama snubbed Abadi, but not everyone is buying it.
Pregent said of Obama’s snub: ” How do you do that to the leader of a country that’s fighting ISIS? … That was a total snub and it’s … disinterested policy to say the least.”
Meanwhile, Iran seems happy to step up and embrace Abadi while it extends its influence throughout the Middle East.
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