BEIRUT, LEBANON (1:30 P.M.) – The U.S. Assistant Secretary of State David Schenker affirmed his country’s support for Iraqi demonstrators demanding the government reform and fight corruption. He also did not rule out the inclusion of other officials on the U.S. sanctions list, saying, “We are conducting a continuous review” of the list.
Schenker said in an exclusive interview with Al-Arabiya and Al-Hadath that the commander of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Qassem Soleimani, “has a record of violating Iraqi sovereignty. He is in Baghdad to choose the next Iraqi prime minister, and this is unacceptable.”
He stressed that “Soleimani violates the travel ban imposed by the Security Council.” He also made it clear that Washington does not have the powers to arrest Soleimani in Iraq.
He continued: “The Iraqi government can arrest Qassem Soleimani, according to a Security Council resolution.”
Schenker denied any American interference in Iraqi or Lebanese affairs, saying: “We do not interfere in the affairs of Iraq or Lebanon, nor do we decide who is the next prime minister. And we do not establish militias or terrorist organizations in Iraq. Iran is the one that does this.”
As for burning protesters to the Iranian consulate in Najaf, Schenker said: “We do not support burning consulates, but the Iraqi people know who is the cause of the problem they are facing, so they burned the consulate.”
It is noteworthy that the United States imposed sanctions on three Iraqis” Qais al-Khazali, Laith al-Khazali and Hussein Aziz al-Lami, all of whom are faction leaders within the Popular Mobilization Units (Hashd Al-Sha’abi).