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US is 'legitimizing Iranian terrorism in Iraq', American scholar says

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An American scholar has accused the United States of 'legitimizing terrorism' by giving Iraq's pro-Iranian government in Baghdad the right to seek military help from their protectors in Tehran.

Walid Phares, co-secretary general of the Transatlantic Parliamentary Group on Counter Terrorism, said the US had made two key errors on its stance on Iran and ongoing conflict in Iraq.

The first mistake was when the Pentagon stated that 'no Iranian regular forces' were operating inside Iraq, while admitting in contradiction that 'regime forces' were engaged in operations there.

 The second mistake was to acknowledge the legitimacy of having Iranian forces inside Iraq fighting groups opposed to Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Mr Phares quoted Pentagon press secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby as saying in a July 8 news conference: "There are no indications that Iran has regular military forces on the ground inside Iraq.

"We know that there are some Iranian operatives — Quds Force operatives — inside Iraq that are training and advising some Iraqi security forces but more critically Shia militia. And we also know that Iran has flowed in some supplies, arms and ammunition and even some aircraft for Iraq’s armed forces."

Mr Phares wrote in US political website The Hill: "Yet both of these forces are regular armies of the regime, and both are under the authority of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khameini.

"The Quds force is a special branch of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, responsible for operations outside of Iran.

"And those in Washington must, apparently, be reminded that the Quds force is on our list of terrorist organizations.

"The US administration should not legitimize the militant activities by a terror group under these or any circumstances.

"Shockingly, the Pentagon narrative went so far as to state that, 'Iraq has the right to reach out to its neighbors for support', indirectly legitimizing Iranian intervention in Iraq.

"This unprecedented statement goes against a U.S. posture to interdict Iran’s meddling in Iraq since 2003 while also breaching US counter-terrorism guidelines regarding the terror group designation of the Quds force."

Mr Phares described the Pentagon's comments as a 'major shift by the Obama administration' that recognized Tehran's military role inside Iraq.

The Iranians had also exploited the weakened US posture over the past three years by inserting the Quds force inside Iraq, by backing Maliki's suppression of traditional Sunni politicians, by using Iraq to transfer assets to Syria, and to destroy the exiled Iranian opposition at Camps Liberty and Ashraf in Iraq, Mr Phares said.

Mr Phares added: "It appears that Washington is committing in Iraq a mistake converse yet eerily similar to the mistake it committed in Syria – where by backing the 'rebels' who opposed the Assad regime without distinguishing them from the Jihadists, the Administration cleared the path for al Qaeda and ISIS to rise in Syria.

"And now, by welcoming into the fold all supporters of the Maliki regime combating ISIS, the Administration is clearing the path for Iranian terrorist militias the flourish in Iraq."