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Friday, July 15, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Panetta: U.S. 'can't allow' Iran-backed attacks against American troops in Iraq

BAGHDAD — The U.S. military, frustrated with Iraq's failure to stop Shi'ite attacks, plans to raise its profile in the Arab state.


Officials said the U.S. military command in Iraq has ordered troops to expand operations to protect bases and convoys amid rising Shi'ite attacks. They said the command also planned to relax the rules of engagement against suspected enemy forces.

"We can't allow this to continue," U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said.

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During a surprise visit to Baghdad on July 11, Panetta blamed Iran for the spike in Shi'ite militia attacks on the U.S. military. Panetta said the U.S. military would act without Iraq Army approval to stop what he termed the Iranian campaign against American troops, Middle East Newsline reported.

"We have to unilaterally be able to go after those threats," Panetta said. "We're doing that."

Panetta did not elaborate. But other officials said the U.S. military was operating without the consent of the Baghdad government in bolstering security operations. They said Washington has been disappointed by the lackluster response from the Iraqi military to the Iranian-backed insurgency offensive.

"We have self-defense authorities under the security agreement [with Baghdad] to take on our own measures," Colin Kahl, an adviser to Panetta, told a briefing.

The United States has a military presence of 46,000 troops in Iraq, scheduled to leave by 2012. Officials said Baghdad and Washington were preparing to negotiate what could result in the retention of a 10,000-member U.S. force in Iraq.

"We could include a lot of things," U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. Lloyd Austin, said. "If there's no way to do that with the Iraqi security forces, then I'll patrol around my perimeter and do what needs to be done to ensure that my troops are protected."

Officials said the U.S. military has determined that it must immediately and aggressively counter Shi'ite militias to quell the insurgency campaign. In June, 14 American soldiers were killed in the deadliest month for the U.S. military since 2008 amid what officials said marked intensified Iranian training of Shi'ite proxies.

"They're working harder and harder to try to perfect their ability to target," Austin said.

The U.S. military has identified the Shi'ite militias as Hizbullah Brigades, Promised Day Brigade and Asaib Ahel Al Haq, all linked to the Teheran regime. Officials said the Iranian-sponsored attacks could significantly increase if the much larger Mahdi Army, under the command of Shi'ite cleric Muqtada Sadr, joins the fray. Mahdi was said to have disbanded, but officials believed it was providing fighters for other militias to attack U.S. soldiers and installations.

"The effort here obviously has to be to push the Iraqis to take on responsibility of going after some of these Shi'ite groups, going after those who use those kind of weapons," Panetta said.


When Leon Panetta indicated that the US "can't allow" Iranian sponsored and supplied Shi'ite terrorists to attack US troops, what he really meant is that the US will continue to allow it - by NOT going after the source of these terrorist militias - Iran.

John Sneddon      10:08 p.m. / Saturday, July 16, 2011

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