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Iraq, Iran Push US Defense Chief       05/25 09:23

   Iraq and Iran pushed back Monday against U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter's 
criticisms over the fall of Ramadi to the Islamic State group, with an Iranian 
general going as far as saying America had "no will" to fight the extremists.

   Iraq, Iran Push US Defense Chief

   BAGHDAD (AP) -- Iraq and Iran pushed back Monday against U.S. Defense 
Secretary Ash Carter's criticisms over the fall of Ramadi to the Islamic State 
group, with an Iranian general going as far as saying America had "no will" to 
fight the extremists.

   In Baghdad, a spokesman for Iraq's prime minister suggested Carter had 
"incorrect information," while Gen. Qassim Soleimani, the head of the elite 
Quds forces in Iran's Revolutionary Guard, offered his own assessment of 
American forces.

   The war of words over the loss of Ramadi, amid other gains by the Islamic 
State group in recent days, lay bare the fissures among countries that have 
become allies of convenience against the militants. And as Iraqi troops 
continue to flee their advance, governments across the world are questioning 
whether relying on Iraqi troops and militiamen on the ground alone will be 
enough to stop them.

   The criticism began Sunday, when Carter told CNN's "State of the Union" news 
show that Iraqi forces "vastly outnumbered" the Islamic State group, but still 
"showed no will to fight" and fled their advance on Ramadi.

   On Monday, Saad al-Hadithi, a spokesman for Iraqi Prime Minister Haider 
al-Abadi, said his government was surprised by Carter's comments.

   "Carter was likely given incorrect information because the situation on 
ground is different," al-Hadithi told The Associated Press. "We should not 
judge the whole army based on one incident."

   Al-Hadithi said the Iraqi government believes the fall of Ramadi was due to 
mismanagement and poor planning by some senior military commanders in charge. 
However, he did not elaborate, nor has any action been taken against those 

   In Iran, the daily newspaper Javan, which is seen as close to the 
Revolutionary Guard, quoted Soleimani as saying the U.S. didn't do a "damn 
thing" to stop the extremists' advance on Ramadi.

   "Does it mean anything else than being an accomplice in the plot?" he 
reportedly asked, later saying the U.S. showed "no will" in fighting the 
Islamic State group.

   Soleimani said Iran and its allies are the only forces that can deal with 
the threat.

   "Today, there is nobody in confrontation with (the Islamic State group) 
except the Islamic Republic of Iran, as well as nations who are next to Iran or 
supported by Iran," he said.

   U.S. officials, including Carter, have said Iraqi forces fled the Islamic 
State advance on Ramadi without fighting back, leaving behind weapons and 
vehicles for the extremists. So far, the American approach to the conflict has 
been to launch airstrikes as part of an international coalition it leads, as 
well as equipping and training Iraqi forces.

   Iran has offered advisers, including Soleimani, to direct Shiite militias 
fighting against the extremists. Iran has said it does not have combat troops 
fighting in Iraq, though some Revolutionary Guard members have been killed 

   Baghdad has said military preparations are underway to launch a large-scale 
counteroffensive in Anbar province, home to Ramadi, involving Iranian-backed 
Shiite militias. However, that possibility has sparked fears of potential 
sectarian violence in the Sunni province, long the scene of protests and 
criticism against the Shiite-led government in Baghdad.

   Beyond that, Mideast officials gathered this past weekend in Jordan at an 
economic summit said they wanted more involvement from the U.S. in the Islamic 
State war, including weapons deliveries and military action beyond its 
coalition airstrikes. U.S. President Barack Obama and his administration, 
however, remain leery of involving America in yet another ground war in Iraq 
after only withdrawing combat troops at the end of 2011.

   Meanwhile in Syria, government warplanes conducted more than 15 air raids on 
the Islamic State-held town of Palmyra and nearby areas, leaving some dead or 
wounded. The air raids on Palmyra came a day after the government said that 
Islamic State fighters have killed more than 400 state employees, soldiers and 
pro-government gunmen since they captured the town Wednesday.

   The airs raids also came two days after the U.S.-led coalition struck IS 
positions near Palmyra.

   The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Osama al-Khatib, 
an activist from Palmyra who is now in Turkey, said the air raids were mostly 
inside the town and about two kilometers (1.2 miles) from the famous 
archaeological sites that are among the Middle East's most spectacular.

   Syrian state TV, quoting a military official, said government warplanes 
destroyed IS "hideouts" in Palmyra and nearby areas, killing and wounding an 
unspecified number of IS fighters.

   Khaled al-Homsi, an activist inside Palmyra, said the air raids mostly hit 
homes of civilians. He said at least 20 people were killed and dozens injured 
while al-Khatib said at least 15 were killed.   


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