United States Ambassador to Iraq Douglas Silliman says that the U.S. wants to roll back Iran’s influence as Iraq emerges from three years of war with the Islamic State group.
The IS is now driven out of Iraq and the country declared the war against the extremists is over. According to the ambassador, the U.S. is now focused on rebuilding and keeping the peace, but the problem is Iran and its influence, Associated Press reports.
“Iran simply does not respect the sovereignty of its neighbors. The Iranians have — to some extent — assisted the government of Iraq in defeating ISIS. But frankly I have not seen the Iranians donating money for humanitarian assistance, I have not seen them contributing to the U.N. stabilization program,” Silliman says.
Iran gained influence in Iraq after the toppling of Saddam Hussein and when extremists from the Islamic State swept across northern and central Iraq, Iran-backed militias mobilized in the country’s defense. The paramilitaries known as the Popular Mobilization Forces now have tens of thousands of members across the country. Most of them are Shiite fighters whose leaders are very powerful because of victories against the extremists.
Because the fight with the Islamic State is now over in Iraq, the U.S. has called for the paramilitary forces to disband. In the meantime, Iraq is looking for external support for reconstruction. Official Baghdad says that the war caused an estimated 100 billion dollars in damage, but Washington said that the 14.3 billion dollars military campaign against the extremists will not be replaced with a similarly funded reconstruction effort.
“Iraq is coming out of a difficult period where there had been a lot of economic destruction, lots of social disruption and we think that it is important for Iraq to have good, positive relationships with all of its neighbors, and Iran is included in that,” Silliman explained.
U.S. hopes to help calm tensions between the central government and the northern Kurdish region after the independence referendum.