- The Washington Times - Monday, September 17, 2007

A number of retired military officers are warning the United States to forcibly deal with Iran’s interference in Iraq, which they think is the underlying cause of Iraq’s difficulty in establishing a functional democracy.

The retired officers, many of them supporters of the surge strategy in Iraq, said at a conference sponsored by the Iran Policy Committee last week that they see Iran as the primary threat to U.S. goals in the region.

Iran provides money, weapons, training, safe havens and ideological support to the Iraqi militants, thus, “fueling those fires from the outside,” said retired Maj. Gen. Paul E. Vallely, who co-authored “Baghdad Ablaze: How to Extinguish the Fires in Iraq.”

Gen. Vallely argued Iran effectively combines ideology, politics and military operations, extending its influence not only to Iraq, but also to the Palestinian territories, Lebanon and Venezuela.

Also speaking at the conference, which marked the sixth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney recommended that the war on terrorism be renamed the “war on radical Islam.”

Radical Islam, he said, is “driven by al Qaeda and Iran. Iran is the No. 1 perpetrator of terror in the region today. … So it is extremely important that we address Iran.”

Iyad Jamal al-Deen, deputy chairman of the Iraqi parliament’s Foreign Relations Committee, also cited Iran as a source of sectarian tensions in Iraq.

It is not the Sunnis, Shi’ites or Kurds who want to destroy each other, but rather the politicians and their opposing religious views, he said. “Politics has to be only politics, and religion has to only be religion.”

Gen. Vallely commended Gen. David H. Petraeus on his handling of the surge strategy to date, saying, “He has made a change not only in strategy but also in tactics.”

“[He] is certainly taking on that Special Operations look of getting in [and] working with local populations, and that’s what they’re building Iraqi Special forces to do as well.

“And in some cases, some of the best units now within Iraq are Iraqi Special Operation Units,” Gen. Vallely said.

Navy Capt. Chuck Nash said that an immediate U.S. troop withdrawal would likely prompt a rapid deterioration in Iraq, because Iraqis would lose any incentive to invest in their future.

“We have to stay and help chart a new course,” he said.

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