The recent upsurge on mortar attacks against key Iraqi and US government facilities in Baghdad could be partly attributed to Iranian training of insurgents, a top coalition commander said late last week.
Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno told reporters at the Pentagon recent sweeps in Diyala province have netted around 50 high value terror suspects, most of whom are Iraqis whove joined al Qaeda and most of those are IED builders and truck/car bomb factory facilitators.
Some, however, are Shiite insurgents who have received training in Iran on mortar techniques.
We have found a few people that were Shiâ€™a extremists that were connected to — that had some training in Iran — those mostly being the mortar and rocket teams inside of Baghdad where they were trained in Iran and came in here to conduct attacks against not only coalition and Iraqi security forces, but government of Iraq targets inside of the Green Zone.
The attacks on the Green Zone bolster arguments that the Baghdad security plan is a failure, pushing America closer and closer to an early withdrawal. Odierno said Iran is conducting a surge of its own.
I think itâ€™s Iranâ€™s attempt to continue to destabilize Iraq and inflict as many casualties as they can, frankly, on U.S. forces who are operating in Iraq. … What I have seen, though, is a steady increase in support to Shiâ€™a extremists. I think they are trying to surge their support to Shiâ€™a extremists. Weâ€™ve seen an increased flow of training to mortar teams and rocket teams, weâ€™ve seen an increase in some flow of weapons and munitions into Iraq. We are working very hard to cut those lines every day from Iran.
Though Odierno did tamp down accusations that Iran was supplying Sunni groups in Iraq to accomplish the same goal. This, after a top US diplomat in Afghanistan claimed evidence of direct links to Iranian government military shipments to Taliban insurgents.
And he went on to explain the intricate system of cut-outs that help deflect any direct links to the Iranian governments support and training of Shiite insurgents.
I think itâ€™s the Qods Force working with Iraqi surrogates that work inside of Iraq. Itâ€™s probably in some cases a network that was developed prior to Saddam Husseinâ€™s downfall and they continue to operate. And so we watch that extremely closely. We think thatâ€™s the majority of where itâ€™s happening.
I would just say, again, I think some of the reason — with the operations in Baqubah and Diyala province, we think, weâ€™re hoping will affect some of this. We want to put pressure also on that network, of cutting those supplies of weapons that are coming in from Iran. And thatâ€™s one of the other reasons why weâ€™re conducting this operation.
I understand that many DT readers strongly debate the Iranian connection. But Odierno seemed to indicate there would be more concrete information emerging from the latest Diyala sweeps that would be shared with the media to prove out assertions of Iranian complicity in the deaths of Iraqis and US forces.
And I think, you know, weâ€™ve had some indications of that through some of the people weâ€™ve detained, and I think in the future here weâ€™re going to lay some of that out for you. So I think — we feel pretty confident about those links.