In testimony before the United States Senate, the top U.S. military officer and the leading U.S. diplomat in Iraq said that recent gains in Iraq’s security situation are significant but reversible. Both General David Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker said that the threat from al-Qaida in Iraq has been diminished, but not extinguished; ethno-sectarian violence has been reduced, but could flare up, particularly if it is fueled by the actions of outside actors. And both men spoke of the continuing destructive influence of Iran in Iraq.
General Petraeus said that through the Qods Force, an elite organ of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Iran is “funding, training, arming and directing” extremist Shi’a militias, known as the Special Groups. The Special Groups recently clashed with Iraqi and coalition forces in Baghdad and Basra. General Petraeus said the flare-up highlights Iran’s malign behavior in Iraq:
“Unchecked, the Special Groups pose the greatest long-term threat to the viability of a democratic Iraq.”
General Petraeus said that Iraqi and coalition leaders have repeatedly noted their desire that Iran live up to promises made by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to stop Iran’s support for the Special Groups. But, he said, the “nefarious activities by Iran’s Qods Force have continued.”
U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker said that the United States “knows more about these networks and their Qods Force sponsors than ever before:”
“And we will continue to aggressively uproot and destroy them. At the same time, we support constructive relations between Iran and Iraq and are participating in a tripartite process to discuss the security situation in Iraq. Iran has a choice to make.”
Ambassador Crocker said if the United States fails to build on its gains in Iraq, al-Qaida would benefit, and so would Iran. “Iran has said publicly it will fill any vacuum in Iraq, and Shi’a militias would reassert themselves,” said Mr. Crocker. “The Iraqi people," he said, "would suffer on a scale far beyond what we have already seen. Spiraling conflict could draw in neighbors with devastating consequences for the region and the world.”