New York Times: Gen. Ray Odierno, the senior American commander in Iraq, said Tuesday that two influential Iraqi politicians now involved in blocking candidates in the parliamentary election next month had close links to Iran, which the general said was trying to undermine the vote.
The New York Times
By THOM SHANKER
WASHINGTON — Gen. Ray Odierno, the senior American commander in Iraq, said Tuesday that two influential Iraqi politicians now involved in blocking candidates in the parliamentary election next month had close links to Iran, which the general said was trying to undermine the vote.
General Odierno was unusually blunt in publicly expressing concerns about the actions of the two Iraqis: Ahmed Chalabi, who was a confidant of Bush administration officials in the prelude to the 2003 invasion but now is perceived as having supplied false intelligence to the United States; and Ali Faisal al-Lami, suspected of involvement in murderous activities of Shiite militants, including a bombing in Baghdad, accusations that he denies.
The two Iraqi politicians “clearly are influenced by Iran,” General Odierno said. “We have direct intelligence that tells us that.” He said the two men had several meetings in Iran, including sessions with an Iranian who is on the United States terrorist watch list. General Odierno spoke during a forum in Washington sponsored by the Institute for the Study of War, a policy research center.
Hard-line Shiite leaders in Iran are seeking to influence the outcome of Iraq’s national election, he said, through public and covert action — investments and other financial assistance to influence voters, as well as its continued support to violent groups within Iraq.
Mr. Lami, a close aide to Mr. Chalabi, is in charge of a panel that has disqualified several hundred candidates who had planned to run in the March 7 election on the grounds that they had promoted the Baath Party. Hardest hit have been Sunni candidates, and the action has raised fears that Sunnis are being marginalized by Iraq’s Shiites.