US military official distances himself from Iraqi event calling for links with Israel
NEW YORK – A spokesperson for the US-led coalition to defeat Islamic State distanced himself from a recent event in Iraq on Sunday where some 300 prominent local officials issued statements supporting normalization with Israel .
“[The International Coalition for Operation Inherent Resolve] has just been made aware of the GoI and KRG announcements regarding the recent conference held in Erbil to discuss normalization of relations with Israel. [The Global Coalition] had no prior knowledge of the event, and we have no affiliation with its participants, ”Colonel Wayne Marotto tweeted.
“[The Coalition] remains committed to supporting the [government of Iraq’s] lasting defeat daesh mission by advising, assisting and enabling [Iraqi Security Forces’s] at the operational level, ”he added, referring to the Islamic State.
The tweets were the first public comment from a US official regarding the meeting and appeared to be an attempt to allay the wrath of the Iraqi government, which quickly condemned Erbil’s confab as unrepresentative of Baghdad’s point of view on the matter. .
The Iraqi government is a key ally of the Coalition.
The Biden administration has been criticized by Republicans for failing to build on progress initiated by the Trump administration, which has negotiated normalization agreements between Israel and four Arab countries.
The White House has insisted that strengthening and expanding the Abrahamic Accords is indeed a priority and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken even hosted an event earlier this month marking the first anniversary of the signing of standardization agreements with its counterparts in Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco.
.@CJTFOIR has just been made aware of the GoI and KRG announcements regarding the recent conference held in Erbil to discuss normalization of relations with Israel. @Coalition had no prior knowledge of the event, and we have no affiliation with its participants. pic.twitter.com/mMVY13Lh0r
– OIR spokesperson, Colonel Wayne Marotto (@OIRSpox) September 26, 2021
The State Department did not immediately respond to whether Marotto’s statement represented the official view of the Biden administration on the Erbil event.
At Friday’s conference in the Kurdistan region, Iraqi participants called on their country’s leaders to end the state of war and join the Abrahamic Accords.
The rally included Sunni and Shia Muslim tribal leaders, social activists and former military commanders, and was organized by the Center for Peace Communications, a New York-based nonprofit that seeks to strengthen ties between Israelis and the Arab world.
Iraqi authorities announced on Sunday that they had issued arrest warrants for two citizens who addressed the conference, adding that they would arrest the 300-plus attendees once they establish who they are.
Friday’s conference sparked a media storm in Iraq. Iraqi President Barham Salih denounced the conference as “illegal” and accused the participants of seeking to stir up unrest.
Iraqi authorities announced on Sunday that they had issued arrest warrants against two Iraqis who spoke at a conference. Authorities have said they will arrest the 300-plus participants once they establish who they are.
The rally was held in Iraqi Kurdistan, which enjoys a certain autonomy within the framework of the Iraqi federal system. Kurdish officials have sometimes visited Israel, while Israelis have also quietly visited Kurdish areas.
But the government of Kurdistan has also distanced itself from the event in the wake of the controversy, arguing for other Iraqi factions to deal with the issue “more calmly”.
Aaron Boxerman and Lazar Berman contributed to this report.