Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Iran played a part in Iraq's decision over US troop withdrawal

Adviser to Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, Sa'ad Youssef al-Mutalabi, has told the BBC that Iran influenced Baghdad's decision to disallow the US troops to remain in the country beyond the end of this year. Under the present agreement the US is expected to withdraw all its remaining forces from Iraq by 31st December.

Some experts are concerned about Iran's increasing influence on Iraq. The admission does not bode well for the US, who has lobbied for a new agreement that would allow the US to keep a contingent of several thousand soldiers in Iraq.

In October, after months of indecision, the government in Baghdad said no or at least not under conditions acceptable to the Pentagon.

Al-Mutalabi said the decision had been entirely Iraq's, but that Iranian sensitivities did play a part. He noted: "It is taking Iran into consideration. We understand that there is certain sensitivity. And we do not want an excuse for the Iranians to intervene in Iraq on the pretext that you have American troops."

Spokesman for US embassy in Baghdad Michael McClellan said: "We are not being pushed out and I don't think it's at the behest of Iran. Since 2003, our objective here has been to have an Iraq that is sovereign, stable and self-reliant. They are sovereign because they did make their own decision. We did not just come back at them and say: 'Sorry but we're going to keep our troops here anyway.'"

It is estimated that there are around 30,000 US soldiers in Iraq. Their withdrawal at the end of December will mark the end of the war that cost the US £630billion.

Sources: BBC News, Bloomberg, Reuters

For more news and expert analysis about Iraq, please see Iraq Focus.

For more news and expert analysis about Iran, please see Iran Strategic Focus.

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