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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

13 April 2007

U.S. General Calls on Iraqis To Stand Up Against Violence

Odierno warns of continued Iranian involvement in arming terrorists

Washington -- A top U.S. general urged the Iraqi people to “stand up and reject” insurgent violence in the wake of an April 12 suicide bombing of Iraq’s parliament inside Baghdad’s heavily guarded “Green Zone.” A group identifying itself with al-Qaida terrorists has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Lieutenant General Ray Odierno also said groups linked to Iran’s revolutionary guards – or al-Quds – continue to interfere with Iraqi security and might be arming Sunni insurgents in addition to Shiites as part of an effort to create nationwide chaos. Odierno, commander of Multi-National Corps - Iraq, ranks second among U.S. military officials in Iraq. He spoke to Pentagon reporters April 13 in a news conference via satellite.

News reports said the April 12 blast killed at least one person plus the bomber and that an insurgent group called the Islamic State of Iraq had claimed responsibility. Odierno said it was too early in the investigation to determine who was responsible. Odierno said he was aware of reports that al-Qaida in Iraq claimed responsibility. “Based on past events,” he said, “they were probably somewhat involved, but we don’t know for sure yet.”

Forces from Iraq’s Ministry of Interior have assumed responsibility for securing the parliament building and international coalition troops will continue to work closely with Iraqi security forces, Odierno said.

“Yesterday, the Iraqi people were dealt another blow,” Odierno said. He described April 12, which also included the bombing of a key bridge spanning the Tigris River, as a “very bad day.”

“It is clear that we still have a long way to go to provide security and stability to the people of Iraq,” Odierno said.  “The incident has only strengthened the resolve of the government of Iraq, though, and its Council of Representatives.”

U.S. and coalition forces will “stand should to shoulder” with the Iraqi government, he said. “But at the end of day, for us to be successful here, it is the Iraqi people who must impose their will.”

Odierno said an Iraqi-led security initiative, known as Fard al-Qanun, Arabic for “enforcing the law,” is showing early signs of progress since its launch in February, including a drop in killings between Sunni and Shiite communities.

In January, President Bush announced the deployment of more than 25,000 additional U.S. troops to assist Iraqi security across Baghdad and in Anbar province. More than half of those U.S. troops now have deployed, Odierno said, and the Iraqi government also has deployed additional troops throughout Baghdad.  (See related article.)

In July or August, coalition commanders will assess the effectiveness of the additional troops, Odierno said. “And if we have not yet gotten to the level of security and stability that we think is necessary to buy time for the capacity-building within the government of Iraq and the security forces,” Odierno said, “then we will come forward with the appropriate recommendations” regarding the duration of the deployment.

He also said Iraqi and coalition forces increasingly have uncovered weapons caches in Baghdad, especially of components used to make deadly improvised explosive devices -- the leading cause of coalition casualties.

In addition, Odierno said security “has dramatically improved,” across Anbar province with the addition of Iraqi and coalition forces.  “The addition of two Marine battalions in MNF [Multinational Force] West is allowing us to maintain presence permanently up and down the central and western Euphrates River Valley,” he added.

Even seemingly negative events can convey strong signs of progress, Odierno said, discussing a recent demonstration in Najaf, in which thousands of Iraqis called for the removal of coalition forces.  “This demonstration took place without incident,” Odierno said. “It is worth mentioning three points related to this demonstration. First, the government of Iraq allowed the demonstration to take place, unthinkable under the former regime.  Second, the demonstrators waved Iraqi flags rather than black flags or pictures of ayatollahs. And third, the demonstrators numbered no more than 15,000, rather than the 1 million its organizers called for.”

In Ramadi, he said, there were a total of nine attacks during the first week of April, adding that during the same week a year ago, there were more than 80 attacks.

However, “we continue to see indications of Iranian influence in Iraq, including providing arms, training and safe haven to terrorists targeting Iraqis and coalition forces,” Odierno said.

The level of involvement by the Iranian government remains unclear, he said. “I’m only willing to say that the Quds force [Iranian Revolutionary Guards] is involved in what’s going on here by supplying training, money and weapons.”

If it turns out that these forces are supplying both Sunni and Shiite groups, it may reflect their desire “to create chaos in Iraq.  They do not want this government potentially to succeed,” Odierno said.

But, he said, the best response for the Iraqi citizens and security forces to current violence is to “stand up and reject it.”

U.S. and coalition forces will “stand shoulder to shoulder” with the Iraqi government forces, Odierno said. “But at the end of the day, for us to be successful here, it is the Iraqi people who must impose their will.”

For more information on U.S. policies, see Iraq Update.

(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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