The second-ranking U.S. general in Iraq says his experts suspect that Iran is helping Sunni insurgent groups, as well as Shi'ite groups, as both contribute to ongoing violence in Iraq. VOA's Al Pessin reports from the Pentagon.
Speaking via satellite from Baghdad, Lieutenant General Ray Odierno told reporters at the Pentagon his forces and Iraqi troops have discovered evidence that leads them to suspect Iranian involvement in the Iraqi violence goes beyond just help for Shi'ite groups. The general says more evidence was found on Thursday, when troops discovered a large cache of bomb-making equipment in Baghdad.
"The different types of initiators found, to include sensors, led our analysts to believe that the IED technicians provided devices to both Sunni insurgents and Shia insurgents throughout Iraq," he said.
General Odierno says he has no proof yet, but his troops are investigating.
"We're working now to determine whether they are, in fact, not only providing Shia groups, but also Sunni insurgent groups," he added. "We don't have any specific proof of that yet, but there's been some indications that that could, in fact, be the case."
The general says the help for insurgents in Iraq is coming from Iran's elite Quds Force, but he could not say whether senior Iranian leaders are directing the effort.
The general also reported progress from the new Baghdad Security Plan, in spite of continuing violence, including the bombings Thursday of the Iraqi Parliament building and a bridge in the capital. He called Thursday 'a very bad day,' but said the new security effort should not be judged by that alone.
"It's not about one or two single events," he noted. "It's about an overall feeling of security you get in your neighborhood. And we are tackling this neighborhood by neighborhood. And it's allowing people to understand that they feel protected inside their neighborhood first."
General Odierno also said U.S. forces will not take over security for the parliament building because Iraqi forces are capable of securing it, and it is important for them to do so.
The general said it is too early to judge how long the United States will have to maintain the higher troop level President Bush ordered in January. He said all the troops will be in Iraq by early June and the first assessment will come in July or August. He said the goal is to provide long-term security, but he said that does not necessarily mean more U.S. troops for the long term.