Across the Bay

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Gen. Petraeus on Iran, Hezbollah and Syria in Iraq

Gen. David Petraeus gave an interview to the Arabic magazine al-Watan al-Arabi.

In it, he was asked about the role of Iran and Syria in Iraq. He replied that their role was not positive due to their interference in Iraqi affairs. Iran's goal, he pointed out, was apparently to turn a part of the Mahdi Army into an organization like Hezbollah (see this report Lieberman's recent op-ed). He added that most of these are suicide bombers who have caused tremendous suffering to the Iraqi people.

Here's my translation of the relevant sections of the interview:

Al-Qaeda in Iraq is the biggest direct threat to this country in the short term, and we must face this threat to secure Iraq.
There is growing awareness that the extremist militias supported by Iran, which target innocent civilians with rockets, mortars rounds, kidnappings, murder, blackmail and terror are the biggest danger in the long term on the Iraqi state, as these militias have the capability to become a militia similar to the Lebanese Hezbollah. In other words, forces that work for Iran which would lead to the destabilization of Iraq.
It seems that the Mahdi Army was affected by the long period of absence of its principle leaders -- including Muqtada Sadr -- in Iran, in addition to the targeting by the coalition forces of elements that are involved in sectarian killings, assassinations, kidnappings and the use of armor-piercing charges and rocket attacks against civilians, coalition and Iraqi troops. All Iraqis must be concerned about the elements that have been armed, trained, equipped, financed, and in some cases directed, by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps -- the Quds Force -- and these forces have caused huge and terrible violence and are not doing anything constructive.
The positions of Syria and Iran are not positive and that is in their interference in Iraqi affairs, where Iran supports extremist secret cells in the Mahdi Army militia as well as arming, training, equipping, financing, and sometimes directing these groups.

Iran uses another force subordinate to it, and that is the Lebanese Hezbollah forces, in order to help train the groups in Iraq. And due to their presence in Iraq, we were able to arrest the leader of secret groups and the deputy leader of elements belonging to the Lebanese Hezbollah, which were formed to help the Quds Force train Iraqis. These special cells are involved in rocket and mortar attacks, kidnappings, murder, and the use of armor-piercing charges against Iraqi troops, coalition troops, and Iraqi officials. It seems that Iran's goal is to turn a section of the Mahdi Army into an organization similar to Hezbollah that works inside Iraq, and this raises fears among many Iraqis.

As for Syria, it allows thousands of foreign fighters to cross through Damascus Airport, and this has created serious problems in Iraq. In truth, these [foreign fighters] are the majority of suicide bombers who have caused great suffering to the Iraqi people and horrible killing and torment.
Iran is trying to have a dominant role in Iraq, and is using its political and military power in order to expand its presence in the country. And as we mentioned before, Iran is trying to turn a part of the Mahdi Army into a militia like Hezbollah in order to dominate at least a part of Iraqi territory, and at the same time, the armed groups supported by Iran have tried to destabilize the Iraq government through campaigns of rocket and mortar attacks, murders and assassinations, kidnappings and terror.

Update: US troops arrested a man who works for Syrian intelligence during a raid against al-Qaeda networks in northwestern Iraq:

US forces declared in a statement yesterday that "Iraqi special forces, under the supervision of US advisors, dismantled an al-Qaeda cell and arrested six suspected terrorists during a raid at dawn on Monday in the region of Rubei'a (west of Mosul)" close to the border with Syria, according to the AFP.

The statement added, "the cell is responsible for a number of attacks against innocent civilians as well as attacks against the police and coalition troops, and financing terrorist attacks in the region." The statement asserted that "one of the terrorists arrested is tied to Syrian intelligence and receives money from it in order to support the insurgency in the country." The statement added, "the operation also led to the arrest of 40 suspects with ties to al-Qaeda in Iraq during a search of five houses."