Al Jazeera reports:
US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has said that his country will act “uniterally” to confront what he said were Iranian threats to US interests in Iraq.
Speaking during his first visit to Baghdad since taking office on July 1, Panetta said on Monday that the US was “very concerned about Iran and the weapons they are providing to extremists here in Iraq”.
He blamed weapon supplies from Iran for the increase in violence in June, the deadliest month for US troops in Iraq in two years.
“In June we lost a hell of a lot of Americans as a result of those attacks. And we cannot just simply stand back and allow this to continue to happen,” he said.
Panetta said Washington’s first effort would be to press the Iraqi government and military to go after the Shia groups he said were responsible for the attacks.
“Secondly, to do what we have to do unilaterally, to be able to go after those threats as well, and we’re doing that,” he said, referring to the right of US forces to defend themselves on Iraqi soil.
“And thirdly, to bring pressure on Iran to not engage in this kind of behaviour.
“Because, very frankly, they need to know that our first responsibility is to protect those that are defending our country. And that is something we are going to do.”