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Friday, July 23, 2010     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

U.S. military warns Iraq on political vacuum; Iran applies pressure, backed by Obama

WASHINGTON — The U.S. has warned that Iraq must soon resolve its political stalemate.


So far, the U.S. military has not allowed the political vacuum in Baghdad to hamper plans for a rapid troop withdrawal. In the first stage, the U.S. military presence would drop to 50,000 in September 2010, with all combat forces removed. Currently, the military, which has ended all combat air operations in Iraq, has reported 70,000 troops remain.

Iran has been pressing both Al Maliki and Alawi to settle their differences and agree on the next government. Officials said the White House was quietly encouraging the Iranian effort.

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Officials said the U.S. military has expressed concern that the failure to establish an Iraqi government could harm security. They said the military and security forces need a stable political leadership to draft and implement policy.

"They must exercise their constitutional responsibilities and form a government without delay," President Barack Obama said on July 22.

[On July 22, at least two people were injured in a rocket attack that targeted the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, Middle East Newsline reported. The Katyusha rocket was said to have landed in the Green Zone near the U.S. embassy, the second such attack in July.]

Obama's statement came after a U.S. military assessment warned of the consequences of the absence of a ruling coalition in Baghdad. In a briefing on July 21, U.S. military commander Gen. Ray Odierno said he would be concerned if the stalemate between Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki and his challenger, Iyad Alawi, was not resolved by October 2010.

"So I would be concerned if there's not a government formed by October or so — I would start to have some concern," Odierno said.

"There's uneasiness in Iraq because of how long it's taking," Odierno, who said Iran was increasing its influence in Baghdad, said. "But there has not been any degradation in security and stability."

Odierno said Iraq's military and security forces have hurt Al Qaida operations. He said the network has been severed from its leadership in Pakistan, with Iraqi security forces steadily rounding up insurgents in central and northern Iraq.

"There has been steady, deliberate progress across all lines," Odierno said. "There's clearly more to do, but a new baseline has been established."

On July 20, four Al Qaida detainees escaped a Baghdad prison which had been handed over by the U.S. military. The four had been awaiting trial on charges linked with insurgency attacks.

"This [Al Qaida] is a very thinking enemy," Odierno said. "They change how they do things, and we have to react to that."

Maj. Gen. Stephen Lanza, director for strategic effects for U.S. Forces-Iraq, agreed that Baghdad must resolve its political crisis to preserve security gains over the last two years. He said Iraq must urgently install a new government "so it can move ahead in serving its citizens."

Iraq has reported its military and police totals 660,000 personnel. Officials said the Baghdad government has assessed that it could assume full security responsibility in Iraq by 2011.

"Iraqi forces need another four months to complete readiness and take over the security file in full," Iraqi Interior Minister Jawad Bolani said.


Very good to the point article. So, the Iranians again are playing an active and positive partner. That is a good news. So, who would see that as act of hostility by the Iranians? Who can make anything else out of that? I am sure there are groups of people who did not like to hear that.

Esther Haman      8:43 p.m. / Friday, July 23, 2010

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