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

Mali's Female Basketball Players Rebound After Islamist Occupation

Islamist extremists ruled northern Mali for most of 2012, imposing strict Sharia law, and now some 18 months later, the region is slowly getting back on its feet More

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

Many Chinese-made products go unsold, for now, with numerous Vietnamese consumers still angry over recent dispute More

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies 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.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid