Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister was quick to respond to the U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who called on Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and Shiite militias in Iraq “to go home” now that ISIS has been defeated.
Zarif defended Iran’s involvement in the region and said, these forces have been fighting for “stability and peace”, IRNA reported.
“The people of Syria, Iraq and the Kurdish autonomous region were able to resist ISIS with the help of Iran”, Zarif reiterated and claimed, “If it was not for the Defenders of the Shrine, now ISIS would have been entrenched in Damascus, Baghdad and Erbil”.
Zarif also did not miss the chance to jab at Saudi Arabia, saying that U.S. allies who want “to plunder” oil dollars, “dance to the tune” and have caused instability and crisis in the region.
He called on U.S. officials to correct their course and not to support Saudi Arabia “in killing children and the elderly in Yemen”.
Hours before Zarif’s remarks, Tillerson who was meeting with Saudi officials and the Iraq prime minister called on Iranian forces and its militias “to go home” and let the Iraqi people rebuild their country.
"Iranian militias that are in Iraq, now that the fight against Daesh and ISIS is coming to a close, those militias need to go home. The foreign fighters in Iraq need to go home and allow the Iraqi people to regain control," Tillerson said at a joint news conference with Saudi foreign minister Adel Jubeir.
Tillerson trip to Saudi Arabia and the region was partly to neutralize Iran’s growing influence, by strengthening Saudi-Iraqi cooperation, among other things.
In addition to the dominant role Iran is playing in Syria, it also controls tens of thousands of Shiite militiamen in Iraq and is said to wield a lot of influence with the Iraqi government.
Iraqi Kurds bitterly complained that the commander of Iran’s Quds force, General Qasem Soleimani travelled to Iraq to strongly warn them not to resist Iraq forces advancing on the disputed city of Kirkuk.
They also said that Iranian troops were among Iraqi Shiite militiamen attacking to retake Kirkuk from Kurdish forces.