News / Middle East

US Commander Says Iran Planned Political Dispute in Iraq

The top American commander in Iraq is accusing Iran of engineering the disqualification of 145 Iraqi Sunnis from next month's election, a move that could leave the country's Sunni community feeling unrepresented and angry when the results come in.  General Ray Odierno also told an audience during a visit to Washington Tuesday if there is significant instability in Iraq after the election, he might have to recommend slowing down the planned withdrawal of tens of thousands of U.S. troops.

General Odierno told an event organized by the Institute for the Study of War that Iran is still using its Quds Force to fund, train and equip Shi'ite militias in Iraq.  He said although Iraqi military action has broken up many such groups, several remain, and continue to plant powerful roadside bombs directed at U.S. and Iraqi forces, and carry out other attacks aimed at discrediting the Iraqi government.  
 
But the general indicated one of Iran's most serious efforts in recent months has been to convince the leaders of Iraq's Justice and Accountability Commission to block hundreds of Sunni politicians from participating in next month's national elections.  An appeals court later reduced the number to 145. "Unfortunately, it happened right before the election, which was clearly planned very carefully by certain individuals, Ahmed Chalabi and others, who, I would argue are getting support by other nations, who, in fact, are trying to push very specific agendas inside of Iraq," he said.

General Odierno then got more specific, accusing Chalabi, who had close ties to the United States before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, of working directly with Iran's Quds Force, and its alleged Iraq commander Mehdi Mohandes.  The general says Chalabi and the other Commission leader, Ali al Lami, went to Iran to consult about the candidates issue.

"He [al Lami] and Chalabi are clearly influenced by Iran.  We have direct intelligence that tells us that.  They've had several meetings in Iran.  And we believe they're absolutely involved in influencing the outcome of the election.  And it's concerning that they've been able to do that over time," the general said.

The general says the controversy over Sunni candidates with alleged ties to the former Baath party and Saddam Hussein has put sectarian issues at the forefront of the Iraqi election campaign.  But he believes Iraqi politicians will be forced, as the campaign continues, to address the key concerns of the Iraqi people.  He says a recent survey indicates those are the jobs, basic services, future prosperity and security, in that order.

He also disputed the charge that U.S. officials, including Vice President Joe Biden, tried to play too large a role in opposing the Justice Commission's decision.

"What we have to do is protect the democratic process.  What we need is when this election is over the people of Iraq feel that the democratic process served them, and that it was not hijacked by a few people.  If they believe the democratic process, for the most part, served them, I believe we're really on track to really move Iraq forward," he said.

General Odierno also said he believes the election will create a parliament in which leaders will need to form a coalition involving more than two parties, a process that could take months.  

The general is scheduled to begin a sharp drawdown of U.S. troops shortly after the election from their current level of 97,000 to 50,000 by the end of August.  But he left open the possibility that he could recommend a delay in reaching that agreed-upon number. "I believe I have flexibility to at least make recommendations to the leadership on what we should do based on the situation on the ground.  It's my assessment, though, within the first 60 days or so we'll know if there's going to be a problem that's going to lead to some violent behavior that would require us to maintain more force," he said.

But General Odierno indicated he does not particularly expect that to be needed, and predicted he could reach the August goal ahead of schedule.  He also noted that even 50,000 U.S. troops focused on advising and assisting Iraqi forces have significant capability to help maintain order, if that is needed.    

The general said Iraqi security forces have improved significantly in recent years, and should be able to handle internal security by the end of 2011, when the rest of the American troops are scheduled to leave.  But he said Iraq will still need support for external security.  He also said the Iraqi people have rejected the militant and violent ideology of al-Qaida, which he called a "huge, huge" statement for an Arab country to make.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More