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Iranian Influence Down In Iraq

Iranian Influence Down In Iraq
There has been a marked decline in Iraq of Iranian-made explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs. U.S. Army Lieutenant General Thomas Metz, who heads a Defense Department program to combat roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan, said he believes the decline in the numbers of weapons is attributable to a deliberate choice involving Iranian authorities.

"We must assume," said General Metz, "that someone has made the decision on the Shia side with connections with Iran ... to bring them down."

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says Iran has cut back its harmful meddling in Iraq, due in large part to pressure applied by U.S. and Iraqi forces.

"It was getting to be a very tough business, given that we pursue them and pursue them hard," said Secretary of State Rice. "[U.S. Ambassador to Iraq] Ryan Crocker told them that when he met his [Iranian] counterpart the last time: 'Your people are not safe in Iraq as long as they're trying to harm our people.' And we've carried through on that."

Secretary of State Rice says that because Iran is Iraq's neighbor, it will naturally have influence there. But, she said, that influence should not involve "training violent special groups to go after coalition forces and go after innocent Iraqis." Ms. Rice noted that Iraq's own military forces are becoming stronger, as was shown by their defeating Iranian-supported extremist militias in Basra last spring.

In addition, by approving and ratifying the Status of Forces Agreement and the Strategic Framework Agreement with the United States, the Iraqi government has shown it will act in the best interests of the Iraqi people. These two agreements -- the first authorizing the continuing presence of U.S. troops in Iraq and laying a framework for their withdrawal, and the second, cementing a strategic partnership between Iraq and the U.S. – were strongly opposed by Tehran.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says by approving these agreements, the Iraqis have shown they are an independent state and an independent people. They are also, she said, building "a strong Arab state" that is "a multi-confessional democracy." And that, said Ms. Rice, is "the best bulwark against malign Iranian influence in the region."