Iraq’s PM slams top US soldier over comments
By Hamza Hendawi - The Associated PressPosted : Friday Oct 17, 2008 15:58:46 EDT
BAGHDAD — Iraq’s prime minister slammed America’s top military commander in Iraq on Friday, saying he “risked his position” when he said Iran sought to bribe lawmakers to vote against a security agreement between Iraq and the United States.
“The American commander has risked his position when he spoke in this tone and has regrettably complicated relations,” Nouri al-Maliki told a group of visiting Kuwaiti journalists in an interview shown on Iraq’s state television. “The man is known to be good and kind, but how can he speak like this about a baseless case? What has been said is truly regrettable.”
Al-Maliki’s surprisingly strong-worded criticism of Gen. Ray Odierno underlined the touchiness of the issue of relations between Iraqi politicians and Iran, which the United States accuses of meddling in Iraq’s affairs, including the arming, training and financing of Shiite militants.
Many in Iraq’s Shiite political elite had lived in exile in Iran for decades when Saddam Hussein was in power, returning to Iraq after the 2003 ouster of the late dictator’s Sunni-led regime. Iraq’s largest Shiite party, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, was created in Iran in the early 1980s and its Iranian-trained militia, the Badr Brigade, fought on Iran’s side in its 1980-88 war with Iraq.
The country’s top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, is Iranian-born and remains a citizen of the Persian nation more than 50 years after he arrived in Iraq.
Iran has consistently opposed the U.S. presence in Iraq and made no secret of its opposition to the proposed U.S.-Iraqi security pact, which provides for the departure of American troops by 2012. Iran has called for its rejection and accused Washington of pressuring the Iraqi government to approve it.
The pact has yet to be approved by al-Maliki’s Cabinet before it goes to parliament for a vote.
Odierno, who last month succeeded Gen. David Petraeus as the overall commander of U.S. and allied forces in Iraq, told the Washington Post in an interview published Monday that U.S. intelligence reports suggested that Iran has attempted to bribe Iraqi lawmakers to derail the agreement, which is needed for U.S. troops to stay in Iraq after their U.N. mandate expires Dec. 31.
He said he had no definitive proof of the bribes, but that “there are many intelligence reports” that suggest Iranians are “coming in to pay off people to vote against it.”
The charge was repeated Wednesday in Baghdad by a U.S. military spokesman, Rear Adm. Patrick Driscoll, who said the military suspected that Iranian agents were trying to bribe Iraqi politicians to oppose the security pact, but that it had no reason to believe Iraqi politicians had taken the bribes.
“There are indicators that Iranian agents may come across the border and use money or other bribes to influence Iraqi politicians,” he said.
“It’s a whole different matter whether Iraqi politicians would accept that.”
But al-Maliki’s comments and a statement by his government issued late Wednesday branding Odierno’s comments “inappropriate” suggest that the Iraqis may want an official apology.
A senior Shiite lawmaker, however, says he doesn’t understand why the government is making such a fuss over Odierno’s remarks when it is an open secret that Iran has a strong lobby in Baghdad’s corridors of power, including the 275-seat parliament.
The lawmaker, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject and claims to have rejected Iranian overtures to win his goodwill, said Iran has consistently been pushing its “agenda” in Iraq and that it should be no surprise to anyone that it would use all means possible to torpedo the U.S.-Iraq security agreement.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Iraq’s PM slams top US soldier over comments
Posted by Bill Corcoran at 4:58 AM
The mainstream media never reports on Iraq anymore, and when they do mention Iraq they would have you believe everything is peachy keen.
Iraqi people are opposed to any pact that keeps U.S. troops in Iraq and they want U.S. troops out of Iraq NOW.
Iraqis stage mass anti-US rally
Supporters of Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr have staged a mass demonstration in Baghdad in protest against plans to extend the US mandate in Iraq.
An estimated 50,000 protesters chanted slogans such as "Get out occupier!".
Iraqi and US negotiators drafted the deal after months of talks but it still needs approval from Iraq's government.
Under the agreement US troops would withdraw by 2011, and Iraq would have the right to prosecute Americans who commit crimes while off-duty.
The UN mandate for US-led coalition forces expires at the end of this year. About 144,000 of the 152,000 foreign troops deployed there are US military personnel.
Chanting slogans and waving banners, tens of thousands of Shias, mainly young men, marched on the eastern suburb of Sadr City towards the centre of Baghdad.
The BBC's Jim Muir in Baghdad says Moqtada Sadr's militant opposition to the US presence has strong grassroots support among many Shias - and this was a physical manifestation of that opposition.
He says leaders of the 30-strong Sadr bloc in the Iraqi parliament will have expressed that rejection at a meeting of Iraq's Political Council for National Security late on Friday.
The meeting of top political leaders and the heads of parliamentary factions was convened to discuss the draft agreement covering the US military presence after its mandate expires.
No decisions were taken but the Council is to meet again to hear back from military experts on what is a very complex and detailed document.
Our correspondent says its passage through parliament may follow naturally if it is approved by the Council, but this is by no means assured and a tough political battle is already shaping up.
In Washington, US defence chief Robert Gates has been courting support for the deal from key members of Congress - although their approval is not mandatory.
Posted by Bill Corcoran at 4:12 AM