US military chief concerned by Iran’s role in Daesh fight

US military chief concerned by Iran’s role in Daesh fight
# 12 March 2015 01:30 (UTC +04:00)

Baku-APA. The U.S.’s top general told lawmakers Wednesday that Iran’s support for Iraqi forces in the fight against Daesh is good, but he’s is concerned about potential sectarian violence once the fight is over, APA reports quoting Anadolu Agency.

Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said under questioning by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Bob Corker that “the activities of the Iranians, the support for the Iraqi security forces is a positive thing in military terms against ISIL,” referring to an alternative name for the terror group.

“But we are all concerned about what happens after the drums stop beating and ISIL is defeated, and whether the government of Iraq will remain on a path to provide an inclusive government for all of the various groups within it,” he said. “We're very concerned about that.”

Of particular concern for Dempsey are potential reprisal attacks by Iran’s Shiite militiamen who form the central column in the country’s efforts to beat back Daesh.

“What we are watching carefully is whether the militias – they call themselves the Popular Mobilization Forces – whether when they recapture lost territory, whether they engage in acts of retribution and ethnic cleansing,” he said.

Dempsey was speaking alongside Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Secretary of State John Kerry during congressional testimony on President Barack Obama’s request for authorization to combat Daesh.

Last month, Obama made the request, the first in more than a decade, setting the stage for Congress to begin a lengthy process of debate on new war powers.

The proposed authorities would last for three years, and would not be constrained by borders and not include the deployment of U.S. troops for “enduring offensive ground combat operations.”

Under questioning by Sen. Robert Menendez, Carter said the wording essentially “does not authorize the kind of a campaign that we conducted in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Asked if the authorization could extend to Nigerian extremist group Boko Haram, which last weekend pledged allegiance to Daesh, Carter said that the draft legislation would cover Daesh’s affiliate groups “if they also have the intent of threatening Americans.”

Kerry’s testimony was interrupted by protesters from Code Pink, an anti-war group, who yelled, “We're tired of the endless war … killing more innocent people.”

Kerry’s reply was sharp and unwavering.

“Killing more innocent people? I wonder how our journalists who were beheaded and the pilot, who was fighting for freedom, who was burned alive -- what they would have to say to their efforts to protect innocent people,” he said.

The unusually undiplomatic response referred to ISIL’s brutal killings of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotfloff, and Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kassasbeh.

As the U.S. prepares to train and equip moderate Syrian opposition forces, Sen. Corker asked Dempsey how the U.S. plans on protecting those forces once they are redeployed to Syria where they will face not only Daesh’s forces, but those of the Syrian government as well.

“As far as that what are we gonna do about protecting the new Syrian forces as they are fielded, that question is, I mentioned the term ‘active.’ We're in an active discussion,” he said. “The scope and scale that protection is the part of this that's being actively debated. But the program won't succeed unless they believe themselves to have a reasonable chance of survival.”

Asked by Corker about the potential for a no-fly zone in Syria, Dempsey said that the U.S. has held two rounds of discussions with Turkey, and is still assessing the option.

“We are continuing to develop that option, should it be asked for,” he said.