Washington, Nov 15: Vowing to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, the US today warned that Tehran's atomic programme, growing ballistic missile capability and efforts to extend its “destabilising” influence in Iraq poses a “significant threat” to the region and American interests.
Iran is making continuous efforts in an attempt to influence the future of Iraq, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said in his testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee at a Congressional hearing on Iraq.
“To advance its own regional ambitions, the Iranian regime has sought to weaken Iraq by trying to undermine Iraq's political processes and... by facilitating violence against innocent Iraqi civilians, as well as our presence,” Panetta alleged.
These destabilising actions, along with Iran's growing ballistic missile capability and efforts to advance its nuclear programme, “constitute a significant threat to Iraq, the broader region, and US interests,” he said.
“Yet the strong, sovereign, self-reliant Iraq we see emerging today has no desire to be dominated by Iran or by anyone else. Iraqi nationalism is real and powerful, and the Iraqis have consistently shown their willingness to resist the Iranians and their surrogates when Tehran has over-reached,” he said.
Panetta said the US is committed to ensuring that Iran does not acquire nuclear weapons.
“With our partners in the region, the United States is committed to countering Iran's efforts to extend its destabilising influence in Iraq and across the region. We've made very clear that we are committed to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons,” he said.
“While we have only strengthened our regional security relationships in recent years, Iran's destabilising activities have only further isolated the regime.
“So as we mark a new phase in our enduring partnership with Iraq, Iran is more likely than ever to be marginalised in the region and in its ability to influence the Iraqi political process,” Panetta said.