Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Iran on Sunday not to exploit the American withdrawal from Iraq. “No one should miscalculate America’s resolve and commitment to helping support the Iraqi democracy,” she said.
American combat forces are scheduled to leave Iraq before the end of this year but that is not to say that Iran will be allowed to fill the security vacuum, Clinton suggested. “We have paid too high a price to give the Iraqis this chance,” she told NBC’s Meet the Press. “And I hope that Iran and no one else miscalculates that.”
More than 4,000 American soldiers have been killed in Iraq since the war there started. Iran, a majority Shiite country, has attempted to improve its relations with the religious minority in Iraq which was governed by a Sunni dictatorship before the 2003 invasion.
Although the civilian government in Baghdad realizes that it cannot properly defend the country on its own yet, it could not afford politically to ask the United States to maintain a significant military presence beyond the December deadline either.
Under the 2008 Status of Forces Agreement, the 40,000 remaining American forces will have to leave the country in two months.
Opposition Republicans are critical of the drawdown, worried that it could undermine progress won at considerable cost but Clinton was quick to point out that the “deadline was set by the Bush Administration.”
On CNN’s State of the Union last week, Republican senator John McCain, a national-security hawk, accused the Obama Administration of mishandling the security transfer. “There is a risk of renewed violence,” he said along with “continued Iranian penetration into Iraq that’s already happening in southern Iraq” where the Shia population is concentrated.
Clinton admitted that Iran will “always” have an influence in Iraq but pointed out that the United States are very present in the region. “We may not be leaving military bases in Iraq but we have bases elsewhere,” she said. “We have support and training assets elsewhere. We have a NATO ally in Turkey.”