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Iraq Rejects Any Israeli Role In Persian Gulf Ship Protection Coalition

Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammed Ali al-Hakim speaks at a gathering of foreign ministers aligned toward the defeat of Islamic State at the State Department in Washington, February 6, 2019

Iraq’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Ali al-Hakim has said Israel’s participation in a U.S.-led coalition to protect shipping in the region is “unacceptable”.

Last week, the Israeli government said it is planning to cooperate with an American initiative to provide protection for commercial vessels in the Persian Gulf region. The U.S. decision to launch an international coalition to protect shipping came after attacks on oil tankers and the seizure of a British oil tanker by Iran in July.

Hakim called Israel “a Zionist entity” in a tweet, but at the same time called the Persian Gulf, the “Arabian Gulf”; a term that angers the Iranian government and Iranians in general. In Arab countries it is common to just use “the Gulf” to refer to the Persian Gulf.

This was the first public response by a regional Arab country to Israel playing a role in the coalition.

Iran has already strongly condemned any Israeli presence in the Gulf, with political and military officials repeating warnings about any such move.

Hakim insisted in his tweet that Arab countries are capable of defending navigation without any foreign assistance. He also rejected any Western presence in the strategic waterways, saying that only negotiations can reduce tensions.

Hakim’s statement will be seen as Iraq’s support for Iran’s position and might be the result of intense Iranian lobbying.