US Defense Secretary Ash Carter meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Switzerland last January. Photo: DoD.

Carter defends Iraq’s Abadi, says he remains in ‘strong position’

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region - US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter has vouched for Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, saying he remained strong despite the political tumult in Iraq.

"He seems to be in a very strong position. Obviously we support him strongly because of what he stands for," Carter said Monday, according to media reports.

Abadi has faced increased domestic pressure in Iraq as supporters of the Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr stormed parliament on Saturday, demanding the immediate implementation of reforms and the removal of corrupt officials.

"Prime Minister Abadi stands for and has been a partner in all of the things that are important to Iraq's future," Carter said, "namely a country that holds together and doesn't just spiral off into sectarianism."

Additionally, Carter said, Abadi has made progress against the Islamic State (ISIS) on the battlefield. In recent months the Iraqi military, with close US-led coalition air support, forced ISIS militants from the Anbar province capital of Ramadi and took the offensive against the militants across that province.

"That's why it's so important for the international community to help and support the Iraqi government at this time," Carter urged.

The defense secretary is currently in Germany to discuss the counter-ISIS campaign with the European members of the US coalition.