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

Video In US, Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy

Holiday marks date Columbus discovered Americas, but some are offended by legacy because he enslaved many natives he encountered More

Video Through Sports, Austria Tries to Give Migrants Traction

With 85,000 people expected to claim asylum in Austria this year, its government has made integration through joint physical activities a key objective More

Video Kickboxing Champion Shares Sport With Young Migrants

Pouring into Europe by hundreds of thousands, some migrants, especially youngsters, are finding sports a way to integrate into new host countries More

This forum has been closed.
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.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs