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Iraq And Threats To Sovereignty

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki called on Iraq’s neighbors to “dry up the roots of terrorism and prevent the terrorists from filtering into Iraq.” He said, “Iraq rejects all interference from neighboring countries” and “we will prevent it.”

U.S. officials say that the recent fighting in Iraq’s southern city of Basra between Iraqi forces and extremist Shia militia trained by Iran highlighted the destructive role Iran is playing in Iraq. Prime Minister Maliki initiated the military offensive to clear out lawless elements in the city. U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates commented on the matter:

“It has revealed to the Shia, particularly, in the Iraqi government, the level of Iranian malign influence in the south and on their economic heart line through Basra. . . . What has happened is that the hand of Iran has been exposed in a way that perhaps it had not been before to some of the Iraqi government.”

U.S. National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley also said the violent resistance to the Iraqi government by the extremist Shia militias in Basra has caused the Iraqis to realize the scope of Iran’s destructive behavior:

“They [the Iranians] are training Iraqis in Iran who come into Iraq and attack our forces, Iraqi forces, Iraqi civilians. . . .So we have illegal militia in the southern part of the country that really are acting as criminal elements that are pressing the people down there and, in good measure, as we’ve seen, alienating the Iraqis from Iran.”

U.S. Defense Department spokesman Geoff Morrell said that the Iraqi government’s determination to fight the Iranian-backed Shia extremists has been welcomed by Iraq’s Arab neighbors:

”Iraq’s Arab neighbors realize perhaps for the first time, the nationalistic intentions of the Iraqi government. They do not view them as the sectarian, you know, Shia-dominated government that they had believed them to be for so long, and are now seeing a much more nationalistic bent. And perhaps we’ll see more [positive] engagement by Iraq’s Arab neighbors.”

President George Bush says Iran has a choice to make about Iraq. Live in peace with Iraq or continue to fuel violence and chaos. “If Iran makes the wrong choice,” says Mr. Bush, “America will act to protect our interests, and our troops, and our Iraqi partners.”