Iran says ready to expand military links with Iraq
TEHRAN - Agence France-Presse
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (4th R) stands with Army commander General Ataollah Salehi (3rd R), Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Hassan Firouzabadi (4th L), Revolutionary Guards commander Mohammad Ali Jafari (3rd L) and Defence Minister Ahmad Vahidi (2nd L) during a graduating ceremony for Iran's army landforce academy in Tehran November 10, 2011. REUTERS photoIran stands ready to expand its military and security ties with Iraq, its armed forces chief of staff said Sunday, a week after the exit of US forces from the neighbouring Arab country.
General Hassan Firouzabadi hailed the "forced departure" of the US and allied forces that he said "was due to the resistance and determination of the Iraqi people and government," the state Islamic Republic News Agency reported.
The statements were made in messages Firouzabadi sent to his Iraqi counterpart, Lieutenant General Babaker Zebari, and to Iraq's acting defence minister, Saadun al-Dulaimi, IRNA said.
The departure of the US troops "was due to the resistance and determination of the Iraqi people and government," he said.
"I hope the humiliating failure of the United States after nine years of occupying Iraq will serve as a lesson for them to never think of attacking another country," he said.
Firouzabadi added that Iran was now "ready to expand its military and security ties with Iraq." Zebari led a delegation of Iraqi military chiefs to Iran last month to explore greater cooperation between the two defence forces.
US analysts have expressed concern that Iran could exploit the vacuum left by the US withdrawal to bolster links with Iraq's Shiite-led government.
The United States frequently accused Iran of arming Iraqi militias that attacked US forces when they were deployed there.
US President Barack Obama said on December 14 that, while the situation left behind in Iraq was not perfect, "we are leaving behind a sovereign, stable, and self-reliant Iraq." His administration has warned Iran against trying to interfere in Iraq.