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U.S. blames Iran, Syria for violence in Iraq – Extracts of text


Iran Focus: London, Oct. 25 – The following are extracts of the transcript of a briefing in Baghdad by the United States ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad and commanding general of the Multi-National Force – Iraq (MNF-I) General George W. Casey on the U.S. politico-military strategy for Iraq. Khalilzad and Casey blamed Iran, Syria, and al-Qaeda for the violence in Iraq. Iran Focus

London, Oct. 25 – The following are extracts of the transcript of a briefing in Baghdad by the United States ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad and commanding general of the Multi-National Force – Iraq (MNF-I) General George W. Casey on the U.S. politico-military strategy for Iraq. Khalilzad and Casey blamed Iran, Syria, and al-Qaeda for the violence in Iraq.


Iraq is strategically vital, due to its location and resources. However, more than Iraq is at stake. The broader Middle East is the source of most of the world’s security problems, as was Europe in previous centuries. This is the defining challenge of our era. The struggle for the future of the region is between moderates and extremist political forces. The outcome in Iraq will profoundly shape this wider struggle, and in turn, the security of the world. Those forces that constitute the extremist’s camp, including not only al Qaeda, but Iran and Syria, are at work to keep us and the Iraqis from succeeding. They fear Iraq’s success. They want to undermine our resolve by imposing costs on us in terms of prolonging the conflict, imposing casualties, and creating the perception that Iraq cannot be stabilized. The enemies of the American people believe that their will is stronger than ours and that they can win by outlasting us. The killings that we all see every night on the television news are the work of the extremists.


While a few provinces experience great violence, there is stability and progress in many others. However, the battle over the future of Iraq has not been a one-sided fight. The enemies of Iraq — al Qaeda, Iraq’s historic rivals and their local clients — concentrate their efforts on tearing the Iraqi people apart along sectarian lines. Tragically, these efforts have had an effect. Now the primary source of violence is not simply an insurgency, but also sectarian killings involving al Qaeda terrorists, insurgents, militias and death squads. Iran and Syria are providing support to the groups involved.

As we look ahead, the question for the United States is whether we will acquiesce to or defeat the efforts of the enemies of Iraq. The answer to that question is that we should not acquiesce, but instead should make adjustments in our strategy and redouble our efforts to succeed

The United States, as well as other supporters of Iraq, is pursuing a strategy to reduce the sources of violence: to defeat the extremists fomenting killing, to increase Iraq’s capability to provide for its own security, and to expand the involvement of the international community in supporting Iraq. This is not easy, and cannot proceed without occasional setbacks and necessary adjustments.

To reduce the sources of violence, our strategy has three key elements.

First, we are inducing Iraqi political and religious leaders who can control or influence on groups in Baghdad to agree to stop sectarian violence.

Second, we are helping Iraqi leaders to complete a national compact. Key political forces must make difficult decisions in the coming weeks to reach agreements on a number of outstanding issues on which Iraqis differ: Enacting an oil law that will share the profits of Iraq’s resources in a way that unites the country — this is of critical importance; amending the constitution to make all Iraqis understand that their children will be guaranteed democratic rights and equality; reforming the de-Ba’athification Commission to transform it into an accountability and reconciliation program; implementing a plan to address militias and death squads; setting a date for provincial elections; and increasing the credibility and capability of Iraqi forces.

Iraqi leaders have agreed to a timeline for making the hard decisions needed to resolve these issues. President Talabani has made these commitments public. The United States and its coalition partners will support Prime Minister Maliki and other leaders in their effort to meet these benchmarks.

The third element is persuading Sunni insurgents to lay down their arms and accept national reconciliation. We are reaching out to Arab states such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Jordan to help by encouraging these groups to end the violence and work for a united and independent Iraq, and to work against al Qaeda. These countries have promised to be helpful. To defeat extremist groups, we will continue military operation against death squads and al Qaeda and adapt our plans for stabilizing Baghdad.

To increase the capability of Iraqi security forces, we continue to train and equip the Iraqi forces needed to achieve success. We are coordinating with Prime Minister Maliki and his team on developing a plan for the transfer of security responsibilities. Reforming the Security Ministry is one of the benchmarks that the Iraqi leaders have agreed to. This plan will be ready before the end of the year.

To broaden international support for stabilizing Iraq, Iraqi leaders and the United Nations have been working on a plan, an International Compact with Iraq, that will consist of a commitment by Iraq to do what’s necessary in terms of continued economic reform and policies to put the country on the path to stability and prosperity, in exchange for the international community’s support. Many countries, including those who opposed the initial intervention in Iraq, are participating in the process, which should be completed by the end of the year.

To counter the hostile policies of Iran and Syria, countries that cynically support groups involved in the violence in Iraq, we are working with Iraqis and other governments in the region to develop appropriate policies and strategies.


GEN. CASEY: Good afternoon, everybody. I’d like to give you an update on how I see the mission here, and then Zal and I will take your questions.

A situation — this will come as no surprise — the situation here in Iraq remains difficult and complex. And I’m sure for the folks back in the United States trying to look at this, it looks very confusing and very hard to understand. I’m not sure I can cut through all that, but let me try.

Several factors add to the complexity that we’re now seeing. First, since the elections in December, we’ve seen the nature of the conflict evolving from what was an insurgency against us to a struggle for the division of political and economic power among the Iraqis. The bombing of the al-Askari mosque in Samarra in February heightened this.

Second, there’s several groups here that are working actively to upset and disrupt the political process. The first, al Qaeda and the Iraqis that are supporting them, have an active strategy of fomenting sectarian violence. In the aftermath of Zarqawi’s death, they’ve remained wounded but lethal.

Second, the death squads and the more militant illegal armed groups are attacking and murdering civilians in the center of the country and have caused security problems in the central and southern parts of the country.

The third group is the resistance, the insurgents that primarily fight us and who claim to be the honorable resistance to foreign occupation in Iraq

And lastly, I’ll mention the external actors, Iran and Syria. And both Iran and Syria continue to be decidedly unhelpful by providing support to the different extremists and terrorist groups operating inside Iraq.

Now, if you add to all this the intensities of Ramadan and the fact that the new government is about 150 days old, it makes for a difficult situation, and it’s likely to remain that way over the near term.


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