U.S. officials have growing concerns Iran might launch attacks against American troops in Iraq should nuclear talks between Tehran and world powers collapse, journal Politico reported on Wednesday.
The U.S. officials, according to the report, voiced concern that a collapse in the nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 (United States, United Kingdom, Russia, China, and France, plus Germany) could embolden Iranian hard-liners and potentially lead to attacks on Americans in Iraq.
According to the report, U.S. officials also voiced concern over the safety of U.S. troops in Iraq in relation to U.S. attempts to see the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, one of Iran’s principal allies in the region.
U.S. officials fear that in either scenario, Tehran could direct Iraqi Shiite militias it commands to attack American troops who are assisting in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), according to the journal.
“The current [nuclear] negotiations likely have a restraining effect, but there are other incentives and national interests at stake for the Iranians,” the journal quoted one senior U.S. military official as saying.
“This is something that we are continually assessing. [Iran’s] history as regional provocateurs and exporters on terrorism demands it,” the official said.
The U.S. has dispatched 3,000 troops to Iraq as trainers and advisers to Iraqi forces fighting ISIS and Iran is heavily involved military in its neighbor, including sending one of its top generals, Maj. Gen. Qassem Suleimani, the commander of Iran’s secretive Quds Force.
The journal quoted one military official as saying that there was no imminent threat to U.S. troops in Iraq. It also quoted sources saying that the potential danger was factored into U.S. military planning.
This concern of Iran harming American troops in Iraq has also impacted on the debate in the Obama administration on whether to push for the removal of Syria’s Assad, the journal reported.
It quoted Robert Ford, the former U.S. ambassador to Syria, as saying: “Multiple [officials] have told me they’re worried about retaliation in Iraq, which does seem to be influencing our Syria policy.”
“Basically, they’re afraid that if they provide serious help to the armed opposition against Assad, the Iranians will have their surrogates in Iraq attack us