Newspaper article International New York Times

Iraqi Premier Chides Saudis over Yemen ; Criticism of Airstrikes Complicates U.S. Push for Coalition against ISIS

Newspaper article International New York Times

Iraqi Premier Chides Saudis over Yemen ; Criticism of Airstrikes Complicates U.S. Push for Coalition against ISIS

Article excerpt

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's comments highlight the Obama administration's difficulty in trying to maintain a coalition in the Middle East to fight Islamist militants.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi of Iraq on Wednesday sharply criticized Saudi Arabia's military intervention in Yemen, saying there was "no logic" to its bombing campaign.

Mr. Abadi's comments illustrated the challenges confronted by the Obama administration against the Islamic State as it tries to hold together a diverse coalition that includes Sunni Arab states and Shiite-dominated Iraq.

Saudi officials have insisted that their airstrikes, which they named Operation Decisive Storm, have been effective in weakening the Houthi forces that they claim have been supported by Iran.

But Mr. Abadi dismissed the contention that the Houthis are "Iranian proxies" and said that the fighting within Yemen had created huge humanitarian problems.

"There is no logic to the operation at all in the first place," Mr. Abadi said. "Mainly, the problem of Yemen is within Yemen."

He also voiced concerns that Saudi airstrikes might be a precursor for a more assertive Saudi military role in the region.

"The dangerous thing is we don't know what the Saudis want to do after this," Mr. Abadi said. "Is Iraq within their radar? That's very, very dangerous. The idea that you intervene in another state unprovoked just for regional ambition is wrong."

"Saddam has done it before," he said, referring to Saddam Hussein. "See what it has done to the country."

Mr. Abadi, who this week is making his first official visit to Washington, spoke to a small group of reporters at Blair House, the White House guest residence for visiting dignitaries.

Mr. Abadi met on Tuesday with President Obama, Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. and Secretary of State John Kerry. During his visit he also plans to meet with Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter, congressional leaders, top executives from oil companies and banks, and the heads of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

Mr. Abadi said that the Saudi airstrikes had put the Obama administration in a difficult position and added that the White House wanted to pursue a political solution.

The Obama administration has been eager to reassure Saudi Arabia and Arab states that it is attuned to their security concerns, especially as it seeks to complete a nuclear accord with Iran, their regional adversary. It has also sought to work closely with Iraq in the campaign against the Islamic State.

"Can you work both sides?" Mr. Abadi asked rhetorically, referring to the administration. "They want to stop this conflict as soon as possible."

"What I understand from the administration, the Saudis are not helpful on this," he added. "They don't want a cease-fire now."

In other comments, Mr. …

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