Iraq demands US backtrack on Jerusalem, militia says troops a target

Iraq demands US backtrack on Jerusalem, militia says troops a target

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraq demanded on Thursday that the U.S. government backtrack on a decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital to avoid fuelling terrorism, and a prominent Iraqi militia said the decision was a reason to attack U.S. troops.

A masked Palestinian takes part in a protest against U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip December 7, 2017. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

President Donald Trump reversed decades of U.S. policy on Wednesday and recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, imperilling Middle East peace efforts and upsetting the Arab world and Western allies alike.

“We caution against the dangerous repercussions of this decision on the stability of the region and the world,” an Iraqi government statement said.

“The U.S. administration has to backtrack on this decision to stop any dangerous escalation that would fuel extremism and create conditions favourable to terrorism,” it said.

The Iran-backed Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba said Trump’s decision could become a “legitimate reason” to attack U.S. forces in Iraq.

“Trump’s stupid decision to make Jerusalem a capital for the Zionist will be the big spark for removing this entity from the body of the Islamic nation, and a legitimate reason to target American forces,” said the group’s leader Akram al-Kaabi.

The U.S. is leading an international coalition helping Iraq fight Islamic State and has provided key air and ground support. It has more than 5,000 troops deployed to Iraq.

Nujaba, which has about 10,000 fighters, is one of the most important militias in Iraq. Though made up of Iraqis, it is loyal to Iran and is helping Tehran create a supply route through Iraq to Damascus.

It fights under the umbrella of the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), a mostly Iranian-backed coalition of Shi‘ite militias that played a role in combating Islamic State. The PMF is government sanctioned and formally reports to Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s office.

Reporting by Maher Chmaytelli,; Writing by Ahmed Aboulenein,; Editing by Larry King

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