BAGHDAD: Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has said he is “totally” opposed to Arab states joining US-led air strikes against Isis (now known as the Islamic State) militants in the country.
In an interview with the BBC, the Iraqi leader said Western air strikes by the United States, France and Britain had “filled many gaps” in Baghdad’s battle against the jihadist threat.
“We are very clear we will not accept any troops on the ground except Iraqi troops,” he added.
He claimed that the Iraqi army would defeat IS “if we have good air cover” without foreign boots on the ground.
Abadi, a Shia Muslim, was recently named as the leader of a unity government following the resignation of Nouri al-Maliki, who was accused of restricting power for Sunni Arabs and Iraqi Kurds.
He said that the rise of IS and their newly-founded “caliphate” was created by “international and regional polarisation” and that regional powers should seek to improve relations.
An Iraqi delegation has been sent to Syria by Abadi to inform Damascus of the Iraqi request for the US-led coalition to launch strikes against IS targets in the neighbouring country to halt “transient border terrorism”.
The United States has conducted over 200 air strikes on the group’s positions in Iraq since August 2014, while Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Bahrain and Qatar have joined or supported the strikes in Syria.