U.S. eyes Iran’s influence in Iraq

As Iraq emerges from three years of war with the Islamic State group, the U.S. is looking to roll back the influence of neighboring Iran and help the central government resolve its dispute with the Kurdish region, the American envoy to the country told The Associated Press.

U.S. Ambassador Douglas Silliman took up his post in Baghdad in September 2016, just weeks before the start of the operation to retake the northern city of Mosul. With IS now driven out of all the territory it once held and Iraq’s declaration that the war against the extremists is over, he says Washington is focused on keeping the peace and rebuilding, and sees Iran’s influence as a problem.

“Iran simply does not respect the sovereignty of its neighbors,” Silliman said. “The Iranians have — to some extent — assisted the government of Iraq in defeating ISIS,” he said, using an alternative acronym for Islamic State. “But frankly I have not seen the Iranians donating money for humanitarian assistance, I have not seen them contributing to the U.N. stabilization program.”

Iran gained major influence in Iraq after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein’s Sunni-led dictatorship and empowered the country’s Shiite majority.

When IS swept across northern and central Iraq in the summer of 2014, Iran-backed militias mobilized in the country’s defense, providing a bulwark in many areas while the beleaguered armed forces were rebuilt. The now state-sanctioned paramilitaries consist of tens of thousands of mostly Shiite fighters deployed across the country. Victories against IS have made their leaders increasingly powerful.

The Trump administration has called for the paramilitary forces to disband after the IS fight is complete. It has also vowed to take a much tougher line on Iran, threatening to pull the U.S. out of the landmark 2015 nuclear agreement and levying sanctions on Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard.

Source » columbian

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