Violence in Iraq has dramatically decreased in recent months. Coalition forces have targeted al-Qaida in Iraq and have significantly diminished its numbers and capabilities. Now U.S. and Iraqi forces are turning their attention to clearing up another problem: the network that smuggles weapons into Iraq from Iran, supplying Shiite extremist groups with rockets, missiles and mortars.
U.S. Major General Michael Oates, commander of the U.S. Army's Tenth Mountain Division, says that weapons smuggling from Iran is the "last remaining major threat" in Iraq. In a joint press briefing with Iraqi Major General Ali Salih Farhood Othman, General Oates spoke of Iran's destructive behavior in supporting extremist militias who threaten coalition troops as well as the Iraqi government:
"We need to focus on defeating the Iranian malign influence, principally the transfer of lethal munitions that comes largely through southern Iraq."
General Othman, commander of Iraq's Eighth Army Division, said that the Special Groups, "trained and equipped" by Iran, pose the greatest threat to Iraq's stability. Speaking through a translator, General Othman said these groups won't face Iraqi forces in the field, and many hide in Iran. But he said, "They put down IED's [improvised explosive devices] and they try to stab our forces from the back":
"The Iranians, they train them, equip them, provide the necessary materials they need. And they send them back though our borders, to assassinate some of the targets and politicians or our military leaders."
Iraqi General Othman and U.S. General Oates say their troops will continue to hunt down extremists in Iraq who threaten the stability and future of the country.