Iranian threat to US troops in Iraq increasing, says top US commanderBy Barbara Surk, AP
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Iran’s threat in Iraq on the rise, says US general
BAGHDAD — The threat to U.S. troops in Iraq from Iranian-backed militants has increased although it will not disrupt the ongoing withdrawal, a top U.S. commander said on Tuesday.
While the overall number of attacks on U.S. military convoys leaving Iraq has been “fairly low,” top U.S. commander in the country Gen. Ray Odierno said “a very consistent threat” from Iran-backed groups has increased in the last two weeks.
Tehran is stepping up its efforts to increase its political and economic influence in Iraq as U.S. military capability diminishes, he added.
“There’s a very consistent threat from Iranian surrogates operating in Iraq,” Odierno told reporters in Baghdad. As a result, security has been beefed up at some U.S. bases in Iraq and joint operations with Iraqi forces against suspected Iranian-sponsored insurgents have been increased.
While the connections between certain groups of Shiite militants and the government in Tehran was “always very convoluted,” Odierno was fairly certain of their ties to the powerful Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, a heavily armed paramilitary force tasked with protecting the clerical regime.
“Whether they are connected to the Iranian government, we can argue about that,” Odierno said. “But they are really connected to the IRGC.”
He said the increased threat had to do with efforts by the militants to try to make propaganda through attacks on U.S. troops as they withdraw as though they are being driven out.
“For years, these groups have been talking about attacking U.S. forces to force them to leave,” Odierno said
The number of U.S. soldiers in Iraq is expected to go from 77,500 currently to 50,000 by September 1. All American forces are to leave the country by the end of 2011.