By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
Aug. 9, 2007 - If Iran really wants stability in the Middle East, it must stop exporting weapons used to kill coalition forces and innocent Iraqis, the commander of Multinational Corps Iraq said yesterday. Iran should stand by its public statements of support for the Iraqi government, Army Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno said in a CNN interview. "They've supported the government of Iraq and the way forward," the general said. "So, we should force them to stand by that. ... Let's hold them to their word and what they're saying in public."
Reports out of Iraq indicate that roughly one-third of attacks on coalition forces are with Iranian-supplied arms. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran, Iran, today in an effort to get Iran to abide by its public line.
The general also discussed the possible future transition of U.S. posture in Iraq. Any change in U.S. force levels in Iraq will be based on conditions on the ground, Odierno said. "I think we need to have a strategy that slowly draws down our presence, and I think that will happen in the future," he said. "But the importance here is about regional stability, which affects international stability."
Iraq is between the Arab West and Persian East and has large oil reserves, he said. "It's a country that wants to be part of the international community. They want to be part of the regional stability," the general said. "The most important thing for the United States is we do not want this to become a safe haven for al Qaeda to train and conduct attacks around the world."
One mission for coalition forces in Iraq is to increase the effectiveness and reach of the Iraqi government, the general said. Coalition forces are working with nascent Iraqi agencies to stand up and serve the Iraqi people. "I think we're doing this through some of the engagement activities that we're now involved in. We're seeing Sunnis reaching out to us every single day wanting to become part of the government of Iraq," he said. "They're now helping us to fight al Qaeda."
The turnaround has been most noticeable in Iraq's Anbar province. The Sunni majority of the province has realized that al Qaeda is a group of killers who cares little for the people of Iraq.
"(The Iraqis) know they have a much better future with the government of Iraq," Odierno said. "They now realize that they can reach out to us. They also realize with the additional combat we've had on the ground, we've been able to have a significant effect on al Qaeda. And we freed them from al Qaeda, and they now want to join us against them to eliminate them completely from Iraq."