Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki (above) has accused Saudi Arabia and Qatar of openly funding the insurgents his troops are battling in western Anbar province, in his strongest such statement since fighting started there early this year.
Security forces have been fighting insurgents from the al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in Anbar’s two main cities – Fallujah and Ramadi – since January after the arrest of a lawmaker and the clearing of an anti-government protest camp prompted a tribal revolt and allowed ISIS to set up fighting positions in the cities.
Violence has escalated in the last 12 months as ISIS has led a devastating campaign of suicide bombings since mid-2013, and Maliki said in a mid-February speech that Saudi Arabia and Qatar were offering money to recruit fighters in Fallujah.
More than 700 people died in violence in Iraq in February, not including nearly 300 reported deaths in western Anbar province and last year was the deadliest year since 2008 with nearly 8,000 being killed.
On Sunday, A suicide bomber detonated an explosives-rigged vehicle at a crowded checkpoint south of Baghdad, killing 32 people and damaging dozens of cars, Iraqi police and a medical source said.
The checkpoint blast at the northern entrance to the city of Hilla also wounded 147 people.
Militants carry out frequent attacks on security forces, and they also target areas where crowds of people gather. The checkpoint combined the two.
Violence in Iraq has killed more than 120 people so far this month, and over than 1,850 since the beginning of the year, according to AFP figures based on security and medical sources.
“I accuse them of inciting and encouraging the terrorist movements. I accuse them of supporting them politically and in the media, of supporting them with money and by buying weapons for them,” Maliki told France 24 television late on Saturday.
“I accuse them of leading an open war against the Iraqi government. I accuse them of openly hosting leaders of al-Qaeda and takfiris (extremists),” he said in the interview when asked about possible Saudi and Qatari links to the violence.
Maliki has long had chilly relations with the Gulf states, who view him as too close to Iran, and has long suspected them of funding al-Qaeda-linked groups in order to bring down his government.
He accused the Saudi government of allowing “commissions” there “to attract jihadis, to lure them, to get them fighting in Iraq”.
He also blamed both countries for launching Syria’s war through al-Qaeda-linked groups that now operate on both sides of the Iraqi-Syrian border, next to Anbar.
“They are attacking Iraq through Syria indirectly. They absolutely started the war in Iraq, they started the war in Syria,” Maliki said.
ISIS has been one of the biggest fighting forces in Syria’s civil war.
“Saudi Arabia supports terrorism against the world, Syria, Iraq, Egypt and Libya.”
Both Saudi Arabia and Qatar have played an activist role in the Syria war, supporting armed groups fighting President Bashar al-Assad.
They both deny supporting al-Qaeda.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar on Wednesday in an unprecedented public split between Gulf Arab allies who have fallen out over the role of Islamists in a region in turmoil.
(Reuters, AFP, al-Akhbar)