U.S. general warns Iran on Iraq militia attacks

Tue Jul 26, 2011 6:59pm GMT

By Phil Stewart and David Alexander

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama's pick to become the top U.S. military officer warned Iran not to underestimate U.S. resolve in responding to attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq by Iranian-backed militia.

General Martin Dempsey did not outline potential U.S. responses in the Senate hearing on his nomination to become chairman of the U.S. military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, a post he is expected to assume in October.

But his remarks underscored growing U.S. concern in the wake of the killing of 14 U.S. service members in hostile incidents in June, the highest monthly toll in three years.

Asked what his message to Iran would be, Dempsey said: "It would be a gross miscalculation to believe that we will simply allow that to occur without taking serious consideration or reacting to it."

Dempsey appeared to signal his fear that Tehran might go too far, both in its actions in Iraq and with its nuclear program, which the West believes is aimed at making nuclear weapons. Tehran says the program is for peaceful purposes.

In his written response to questions from the Armed Services Committee, Dempsey wrote: "With its nuclear activities and its surrogate activities in southern Iraq, there is a high potential that Iran will make a serious miscalculation of U.S. resolve."

U.S. forces officially ended combat operations in Iraq last August but have come under increasing fire in recent weeks. Pentagon officials blame Shi'ite militias armed by Iraq's Shi'ite neighbour Iran for most of the recent attacks.

New Defense Secretary Leon Panetta this month urged Iraq to go after the Shi'ite groups responsible, and warned during his visit to Baghdad that the United States would take unilateral action when needed go after those threats.   Continued...

U.S. Army General Martin Dempsey speaks at his confirmation hearing for Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 26, 2011. REUTERS/Jason Reed
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