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US Concerned with Iran-Backed Militias in Iraq

Spencer Platt/Getty Images(BAGHDAD) -- Monday's tidal wave of violence in Iraq that left dozens dead and hundreds injured underscores the danger still posed by Sunni-backed groups with ties to al Qaeda.

However, the U.S. military's top spokesman in Iraq says that al Qaeda isn't the greatest threat to the stability of the government in Baghdad once American forces leave the country at the end of the year.

According to Maj. Gen. Jeffrey S. Buchanan, security in Iraq is most threatened by Iranian-backed militias whose primary job is to see that the Iraqi government remains weak, divided and isolated from surrounding Arab states and the U.S.

While al Qaeda might have up to 1,000 fighters in Iraq, Buchanan contends that Iranian-backed militias are larger and far better organized because they're taking their marching orders from Tehran.

Furthermore, Iran has its hand in the Iraqi political system with groups that act in concert with Tehran, including lawmakers belonging to the party headed by firebrand Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, one of the most vehement opponents to a U.S. presence in Iraq.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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