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article imagePanetta sounds off, blames Iran for violence in Iraq

By Lynn Herrmann     Jul 11, 2011 in Politics
Baghdad - New US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Iranian weapons being used in Iraq to arm extremists and kill American troops, noting those weapons pose a serious threat and the US should not just “stand back” in allowing it to happen.
In his first visit to Iraq since assuming office on July 1, Panetta began his beating of the war drum and said the US government is concerned about Iran’s weapons supply line, blaming it for increased violence in Iraq during June.
“In June we lost a hell of a lot of Americans as a result of those attacks. And we cannot just simply stand back and allow this to continue to happen,” Panetta said, according to Al Jazeera English. He said the US will be pressuring Iraq to seek out Shia militia groups reportedly responsible for those attacks.
Panetta noted US troops have a right to defend themselves on Iraqi soil, stating the US will “do what we have to do unilaterally, to be able to go after those threats as well, and we’re doing that,” AJE reports. He added part of the scope of operations will be to pressure Iran, making it realize the behavior it’s engaging in is unacceptable and said: “Because, very frankly, they need to know that our first responsibility is to protect those that are defending our country. And that is something we are going to do.”
The defense secretary also insisted the Iraqi government must make up its mind on appointing a defense minister as well as a decision in allowing the US to remain in Iraq beyond December.
“Damn it, make a decision,” Panetta said to a group of soldiers, in response to a question posed on whether Iraq’s government is capable of governing its own country, Huffington Post reports.
Part of the Status of Forces Agreement approved by Iraq in 2008, the idea of Americans remaining in Iraq beyond 2011 is unpopular in the country, but no Iraqi politicians have yet to speak publicly on US troops remaining beyond the December deadline.
The defense secretary said the US will address the Iranian threat head-on: “This is not something we're going to walk away from. It's something we're going to take on head-on,” according to HuffPo.
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