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

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    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.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora