Saturday, December 19, 2009

Ambassador, general discuss Iraq elections, Iran relations

by Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

BAGHDAD (Dec. 19, 2009) – Iraq “is not going to be pushed around” by Iran, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Christopher Hill said here Saturday.

Hill and Gen. Ray Odierno, the commander of Multil-National Force - Iraq, spoke to reporters traveling with Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Army Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of Multi-National Force - Iraq, and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Christopher Hill speak to the media at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, on Dec. 19.Iranians moved onto a disputed oil well in southern Iraq and placed an Iranian flag on the facility. They have since left the facility, which is clearly in Iraqi territory. “It['s] like a game of capture the flag,” said an American spokesman in southern Iraq yesterday. “It has been going on for years.”

“This is not something new, and it’s been dealt with in a good manner by the Iraqis,” Odierno said. “They contacted the Iranians and they just left.”

The general said Iran and Iraq has disputed this oil well since 1975.

Odierno spoke about the security portion of the agreement between Iraq and the United States that calls for all U.S. troops to leave the country at the end of 2011.

“We can do security operations in Iraq through the end of 2011,” he said. “But what we’ve done is, President Obama has made the decision that we will end combat operations on 1 September 2010. The bottom line is the Iraqis are doing a very good job of security.”

The number of incidents in the country is the lowest its been since 2003 and normalcy has returned for most citizens. “What’s happening though is that al-Qaida has changed from a broad-based insurgency to a covert terrorist organization that is attempting to conduct high-profile attacks to go after the legitimacy of the government of Iraq,” Odierno said. Al-Qaida wants to attack the government and disrupt the elections now set for March 7.

Iranian influence in Iraq is a question. For the elections, Iran has “some ideas of how the Shias should be organized,” Hill said. “I don’t think the Iranians have prevailed in their view, I think the Iraqis will do it the way they plan to do it.”

The Iraqis worked their way painfully through the Election Law, “but ultimately it was an Iraqi solution,” Hill said.

Odierno said that Iran continues to train surrogates and send weapons and ammunition across the border. “It’s less tha[n] what it was, but they are still doing it,” Odierno said

Source: CENTCOM.

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