The second-ranking U.S. commander in Iraq says he is trying to convince Iraqi Shi'ite extremists that working with Iran will have long-term negative consequences for Iraq. Lieutenant General Ray Odierno spoke via satellite from Baghdad with reporters at the Pentagon. VOA's Al Pessin reports.
General Odierno says his forces are fighting Iranian involvement in Iraq's insurgency in several ways - including efforts to attack the supply lines that deliver money, material and trainers mainly to Iraqi Shi'ite extremists. But he says there is also an effort to convince Shi'ite leaders that, in the long term, it is not in their interest to allow Iran to increase its influence over Iraqi affairs.
"The main thing that we have to be able to do is get the surrogates that are operating within Iraq, which tend to be Iraqis, to reject what Iran is doing," he said. "And we're working hard to do that. There are Iraqi extremist leaders here that are supporting this effort. If we can get Iraqis to reject Iranians' lethal support inside of their country, we can stop this threat."
General Odierno says he is only at the beginning of that effort, and Iranian agents continue to have a "significant" ability to deliver support to Iraqi insurgent groups.
The general says U.S. officials still do not know whether senior Iranian officials are involved in the support for Iraqi insurgents, which is provided mainly by the elite Quds security force. He says, for now, his forces can address the problem inside Iraq. But he added that as the United States learns more about the Iranian supply network, it might be necessary for senior U.S. officials to decide whether and how to address the problem directly with Iran.
"As we continue to develop our intelligence, we are learning more and more about the networks, both in Iraq and outside of Iraq," he said. "And as we develop that, again, those are significant decisions, national security decisions, that might have to be made."
General Odierno says Iraq's Shi'ite-led government understands the threat from Iran, and has sent Iraqi army units to help in the fight against the Quds Force supply networks.
The general also said that one trainer from Lebanon's Hezbollah organization was captured in Iraq about a month ago. He says there has been no further evidence of Hezbollah involvement in Iraq, but he believes the group wants to get involved, so his forces are watching the situation very closely.