Iran says US has plan to divide Iraq

Iran says US has plan to divide Iraq

Iran says US has plan to divide Iraq

A handout picture provided by the office of Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei shows him (R) meeting with Iraqi President Fuad Masum in the Iranian capital Tehran on November 24, 2015. AFP PHOTO / HO / KHAMENEI.IR

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has accused the United States of trying to divide Iraq along sectarian and ethnic lines and urged Iraqis to withstand any such plans.

“The Americans must not be allowed to consider Iraq as their personal property ... and dare to openly talk about disintegration of Iraq,” Khamenei said according to a message posted to his website on Nov. 24, Reuters reported. 

It was not clear if Khamenei was referring to a specific incident, but Iran has protested U.S.’ Iraq policy several times this year.

“The Iraqi people, Shiites, Sunnis, Kurds and Arabs have been living together peacefully but some regional countries and some foreigners are trying to amplify differences among them,” he added. 

Considered a major Shiite Muslim power, Iran wields great influence in Iraq, which has a majority Shiite population. Its military advisers are helping direct Baghdad’s campaign against Sunni Islamist militant group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which seized around a third of Iraq’s territory last year. 

On Nov. 24, Khamenei met Iraq’s President Fouad Massoum on the sidelines of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF) Summit in Tehran. 

In August, outgoing U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno drew condemnation from Baghdad and Tehran when he said reconciliation between Shiites and Sunnis in Iraq was becoming harder and that partitioning the country “might be the only solution.” 

In the instability resulting from the rise of ISIL, Iraq’s Kurds have expanded the reach of their autonomous regional government to include Kirkuk, which sits on substantial oil deposits. 

The United States, whose 2003 invasion of Iraq marked the beginning of the country’s descent into violence, is supporting Kurdish Peshmerga’s fighting of ISIL and leads a coalition carrying out air strikes against the group. There are currently around 3,360 troops stationed in the country. 

Iran’s backing of Shiite militias fighting ISIL has also added to sectarian divisions. 

During a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Nov. 23, Khamenei called for closer bilateral ties between Tehran and Moscow to thwart what he called “Washington’s plots.”