January 23, 2020 Special Dispatch No. 8520

Iraqi Shi'ite Reactions To Iraqi President Saleh's Meeting With President Trump In Davos

January 23, 2020
Iraq | Special Dispatch No. 8520


On January 22, 2020, Iraqi President Barham Saleh met with U.S. President Donald Trump at the Davos Economic Forum in Switzerland, despite the threats made a day earlier by leaders of Iraqi Shi'ite militias[1] to expel him should he meet with President Trump or any U.S. official attending the forum.

The meeting was the first between a U.S. and Iraqi official since the escalation between Washington and Tehran erupted following the Soleimani assassination.

Before the meeting, Saleh said in a speech before the forum that Iraq "seeks good relations with all sides, and our interests do not lie in being drawn into conflicts that are not of our making." He also attributed the violence against Iraqi protesters to what he described as "outlawed armed groups," and further pledged to hold these groups accountable.

After the meeting, senior leaders in the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) in Iraq issued statements condemning Saleh, saying his meeting with the President Trump represents a "betrayal" of the Iraqi people.

PMU Reactions

Nasr Al-Shammari, the spokesman of the Al-Nujaba Movement, a PMU group, dubbed Saleh a "separatist" in a tweet,[2] saying that he [Saleh] has "destined himself to humiliation."

He further said that "Iraqis will no longer be honored to have one like him who scorns the blood of their martyrs. Leave, you separatist."

Nasr Al-Shammari's tweet.

Bashar Al-Saadi from the Al-Nujaba Movement's Media Office shared several tweets, including one that has a photo from the meeting in Davos showing President Trump and President Saleh shaking hands. The text in the tweet reads: "The Kurdish dagger [Saleh] rests in the back of the revolutionaries [Anti-U.S. protesters]."

Bashar Al-Saadi's first tweet.

In what may be an implicit threat, Al-Saadi posted another tweet[3] calling on Shi'ite aides of President Saleh by name to submit their resignations in protest of the meeting.

"To the advisors of Barham Saleh who are listed below:

"Ahmad Al-Yasseri from Asa'ib Ahl Al-Haq,

"Sherwan Al-Waili from State of Law,

"Abdullah Al-Zaydi from Al-Hikma [Movement],

"Amir Al-kenani from Sa'iroon Alliance,

"Braham Saleh meets with Al-Muhandis' killer and extend his hand to him, so what are you going to do about it?

"Are you going to receive him or resign and that is the least you can do!"

Bashar Al-Saadi's second tweet.

Non-PMU Shi'ite Leaders

Saleh Mohammad Al-Iraqi, the online spokesman for Shi'ite cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr, posted on Facebook[4] a photo of President Saleh with a caption that reads: "His excellency the President of the Republic". He also included a hashtag that reads: "The guardian of the sovereignty and the revolutionaries," a description that some PMU supporters on social media interpreted as a "mockery" of Saleh for not rising up to his role as protector of Iraq's sovereignty, while Iraqis who are anti-Iran on social media viewed as an endorsement of the Iraqi president.

Saleh Mohammad Al-Iraqi's Facebook post.

Ammar Al-Hakim, the leader of Al-Hikma, formerly known as the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, defended Saleh in a tweet,[5]  saying that although "respecting Iraq's sovereignty is a must, talks and peaceful means could be one way of ending foreign presence in Iraq.

"The efforts of his excellency President Saleh in establishing constructive international dialogue could lead to the implementation of what our people seek of a sovereign and politically independent country. His [Saleh] efforts are commended and supported by all of us."

Ammar Al-Hakim's tweet.


[2], January 22, 2020.

[3], January 22, 2020.

[4], January 22, 2020.

[5], January 22, 2020.

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