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WASHINGTON has been accused of transferring jihadists from Syria into Iraq, in what has been described as an attempt to bolster the United States’s presence in the region after its forces were asked to leave by the Baghdad parliament.
Mohammed Mahdi al-Bayati, a leader of the Badr Organisation in Iraq said: “Eyewitnesses living along the border with Syria have informed security officials that American forces are conducting extensive airborne transfers of Daesh terrorists from Syria to Iraq.”
He claimed that the Islamists were entering Iraq from the borders close to the autonomous Kurdish region, and said that the US hoped these actions would lead to an upsurge in terror attacks in order to justify the presence of its troops in Iraq.
The US was ordered to withdraw its estimated 5,000 troops from Iraq earlier this year after a unanimous resolution from the country’s parliament.
It followed the targeted assassination of Iranian Quds Force commander General Qasem Soleimani in a US drone attack at Baghdad airport in January.
But the US is reluctant to leave as it would lose influence in the region. Washington wants to maintain a presence in Iraq to keep the pressure on neighbouring Iran, where it seeks regime change — and access to its vast oilfields.
On Saturday the new Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi told US ambassador Matthew Tueller that the country would not be turned into an arena for settling scores and launching attacks on its neighbours.
The US has increased its forces in Iraq and sent more military equipment to the country, with many fearing a ratcheting-up of tensions against Iran.
It is part of a redeployment of forces in the region, with the US removing Patriot missiles and fighter jets from Saudi Arabia last week, which some claimed was due to a spat over oil prices.
President Donald Trump denied the charges, saying the US was “making a lot of moves in the Middle East and elsewhere.” He said: “This has nothing to do with Saudi Arabia. This has to do with other countries, frankly, much more.”
Iraq believes that the US is planning to target members of the Hashd al-Sha’abi (popular mobilisation forces), an umbrella organisation of about 40 Shi’ite militia groups that Washington says are backed by Iran.
The US has faced persistent allegations of support for Isis.
The influential Badr Organisation leader Qusai al-Anbari made the claim in January and was supported by Iraqi security commentator Karim al-Khikani, who said Isis fighters had been relocated to the region.
Washington armed and trained a myriad of jihadist groups in Syria under the CIA’s covert Timber Sycamore programme, which cost more than $1 billion (£803 million), lasting four years under the Obama administration, eventually being cancelled in 2017 by current US President Donald Trump.
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