BAGHDAD, Aug. 2 (UPI) -- The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaking in Baghdad Tuesday, blamed Iran for the violence he said is meant to destabilize Iraq.
"The Iranian regime continues to violate Iraqi sovereignty by intervening in Iraqi social and political affairs, training and equipping militias to conduct attacks on Iraqi soil and thwarting efforts by the Iraqi people to pursue unfettered the economic growth, development and independence that geography and democracy have bestowed upon them," Navy Adm. Michael Mullen said during a news conference.
Mullen, after meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and President Jalal Talibani Monday, praised the Iraqi leaders for challenging the Iranian regime to stop violence directed inside Iraq. The Iraqi military stepped up operations in coordination with U.S. forces against such Iranian-backed groups, he said.
"As a result, we have seen a dramatic reduction in these deadly attacks," he said.
Mullen noted June was a bad month for U.S. forces in Iraq, with 15 killed, mostly by Iranian-backed militias using weapons officials say came directly from Iran.
Mullen said Maliki and Talibani understand the urgency behind deciding whether to formally ask that some U.S. forces remaining in Iraq beyond the Dec. 31 deadline for withdrawal of American troops. The Iraqi leaders also understand that U.S. assistance can help to bridge lapses in Iraq's security capabilities, he added.
"My government has made it clear that we would entertain a request for some troops to stay, and I was encouraged to learn last night that Iraqi leaders plan to meet to discuss the merits of such a request," Mullen said. "I remain hopeful, therefore, that we will soon achieve some clarity. And I am grateful that serious attempts to resolve the issue are now under way."