US will confront Iranian threat in Iraq: Panetta

Panetta said Iraq must more aggressively go after the Shiite militias.

Updated: Jul 11, 2011, 20:56 PM IST

Baghdad: The US will not "walk away" from
the challenge of Iran`s stepped-up arming of Iraqi insurgents
who are targeting and killing American troops, US Defense
Secretary Leon Panetta said Monday.

"We`re very concerned about Iran and the weapons
they`re providing to extremists in Iraq," he told a small
group of soldiers on his first visit to Iraq as Pentagon
chief.

"We cannot sit back and simply allow this to continue
to happen" he said. "This is not something we`re going to walk
away from. It`s something we`re going to take on head on."

Panetta said Iraq must more aggressively go after the
Shiite militias that are using what he called Iranian-supplied
weapons.

Panetta will also huddle with the top US military and
diplomatic representatives in Baghdad before meeting with
Iraqi leaders to discuss the possibility of keeping some US
troops in Iraq beyond 2011. He will also press Iraq for
stronger action to stop stepped-up attacks on US forces.

Panetta is meeting separately with Army Gen Lloyd
Austin at his headquarters outside Baghdad and with Ambassador
James Jeffrey.

Later, he talks to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and
President Jalal Talabani.

The Obama administration believes Iraq needs a
slimmed-down US military presence beyond 2011, when virtually
all US troops are scheduled to depart. Many Iraqi leaders
agree, but they`ve been unwilling to make a formal request.
There are now 46,000 US troops in Iraq.

PTI