Iran courts better military, security links with Iraq

We are ready to fill vacuum left by US

TEHRAN - Iran stands ready to expand its military and security ties with Iraq, its armed forces chief of staff said Sunday, a week after the exit of US forces from the neighbouring Arab country.
General Hassan Firouzabadi hailed the "forced departure" of the US and allied forces that he said "was due to the resistance and determination of the Iraqi people and government," the state Islamic Republic News Agency reported.
The statements were made in messages Firouzabadi sent to his Iraqi counterpart, Lieutenant General Babaker Zebari, and to Iraq's acting defence minister, Saadun al-Dulaimi, IRNA said.
"I hope the humiliating failure of the United States after nine years of occupying Iraq will serve as a lesson for them to never think of attacking another country," he said.
Firouzabadi added that Iran was now "ready to expand its military and security ties with Iraq."
Zebari led a delegation of Iraqi military chiefs to Iran last month to explore greater cooperation between the two defence forces.
US analysts have expressed concern that Iran could exploit the vacuum left by the US withdrawal to bolster links with Iraq's Shiite-led government.
The United States frequently accused Iran of arming Iraqi militias that attacked US forces when they were deployed there.
US President Barack Obama said on December 14 that, while the situation left behind in Iraq was not perfect, "we are leaving behind a sovereign, stable, and self-reliant Iraq."
His administration has warned Iran against trying to interfere in Iraq.