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US military officials in Iraq warn of growing Iranian threat

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For example, says General Buchanan, US Apache helicopters fired on Iraqis shooting rockets at the US base at the Basra airport last month.

“They engaged and killed them – that was an act of self defense. It would have been far better for all had the Iraqi Army been able to prevent the attack or respond to it and stop it in action but things like that happen... what we’re not going to do is sit back and watch them shoot at us and wait for the Iraqi army to show up,” he says.

15 American fatalities in June

Rocket, mortar, and roadside bomb attacks in June killed 14 US servicemen and an American civilian contractor. Buchanan says all but two of the fatal attacks were conducted by three major Shiite militias with ties to Iran.

Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari on Wednesday said it would be difficult for a new agreement with the US to pass through parliament. He said Iraq was likely to instead sign more limited agreements on the Defense Ministry level for American trainers and advisers to remain in Iraq.

In the oil-rich south – seemingly one of the calmest areas of the country – recent attacks appear to have taken some of the US military by surprise. Some soldiers live in trailers with little of the protection from mortars and rockets that is common in the rest of the country.

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