- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 21, 2008

Iranians in Iraq

A senior U.S. military commander in Iraq said Iranian surrogates, terrorists and insurgents fighting in southern Iraq have returned to Iran temporarily for more training and resources.

Army Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin, commander of the Multinational Corps, Iraq, told reporters Monday that the number of Iranian-supplied explosively formed projectiles and rockets has declined as the result of uncovering weapons caches.

Gen. Austin said the anti-armor improvised explosive devices (IEDs) have “been absolutely lethal on the battlefield.”

“And we’ve seen a number of rockets that have moved from the southern region up into the Baghdad area, and we saw a lot of those rockets last March,” he said.

“In the last several months, we’ve seen a much-decreased flow of those types of weapons, in part because we’ve been very successful in finding a number of caches that had large stores of those types of munitions and weapons. We’ve taken those off the battlefield. And we’ve also taken a number of people who were using those weapons off the battlefield, and so that’s greatly improved the security situation.”

Gen. Austin said improved security in places such as Basra and Sadr City has prompted Iranian-backed forces to regroup.

“We saw that the leadership of the special groups, criminal elements, left the country, and we think that they went into Iran for additional training and to be resourced,” Gen. Austin said.

“And we expect that those leaders will try to come back at some point in time in the future,” he noted. “When they come back, we hope that they’ll find a much changed environment, an environment that’s a lot more hostile to their types of activities.”

The three-star general said that if the Iranian-backed insurgents come back, “we will do everything in our power to pursue them and hopefully interdict their ability to do the same types of things they were doing before.”

Iranian officials have denied supporting Iraqi militant groups.

McCain on bin Laden

Sen. John McCain laid down a policy marker on the seven-year hunt for al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in his recent interview with the Rev. Rick Warren that resonated with several U.S. officials who viewed Mr. McCain’s comments as tacit criticism of the Bush administration.

Asked about his view of evil, Mr. McCain, the expected Republican presidential nominee, said on Sunday that “one, if I’m president of the United States, my friends, if I have to follow him to the gates of hell, I will get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice.”

“I will do that, and I know how to do it. I will get that guy,” he said. “No one, no one should be allowed to take thousands of innocent American lives.”

Story Continues →