On July 26, U.S. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, nominated to become the next
chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services
Committee, that Iran was working toward a massive attack to force
the American military out of Iraq. Dempsey cited the bombing by the
Iranian-sponsored Hizbullah in 1983 in which 241 Marines were killed, Middle East Newsline reported.
"Iran's activities in southern Iraq are intended to produce some kind of
Beirut-like moment and, in so doing, to send a message that they have
expelled us from Iraq," Dempsey said. "It would be a gross miscalculation to
believe that we will simply allow that to occur without taking serious
consideration of reacting to that."
On July 24, the Iraqi Interior Ministry reported the capture of an Al
Qaida cell responsible for the death of about 100 politicians and security
officers. The ministry said the 17-member cell acquired silencers and bombs
to assassinate senior officials including Ali Al Lami, responsible for
investigating the former ruling Baath Party.
Officials said the Iraqi militias represented rival interests, with Al
Qaida and Sunni groups intent on carving zones that would be out of the
control of the Shi'ite-led government in Baghdad. At the same time,
Iranian-backed forces were representing Teheran's interests to dominate the
south, particularly Iraq's crude oil and natural gas fields.
"It is clear that Iran is attempting to influence this decision with the
actions they've taken, specifically over the last several months, in
continuing to support, fund, train, equip surrogates in southern Iraq and
central Iraq, specifically going after the remnants of our U.S. presence
inside of Iraq," U.S. military commander in Iraq, Gen. Ray Odierno, said.
Officials acknowledge that the Al Maliki government has been paralyzed
over whether to extend the stay of the U.S. military past 2011.
They said Al Maliki was concerned over a confrontation with pro-Iranian
politicians, particularly Shi'ite cleric, Muqtada Sadr, commander of the
Mahdi Army militia.
"Every day [of delay] makes it more difficult" [for the U.S. military to
continue its stay]," Odierno told the Senate Armed Services Committee on
Officials have identified the Iranian-backed Hizbullah Brigades as a key
element in the insurgency campaign. The U.S. military has been holding the
brigades commander, Ali Mussa Daqduq, accused of engineering attacks on U.S.
soldiers in Iraq. But under an agreement with Baghdad, Daqduq and 10
remaining prisoners held by the U.S. military must be transferred to Iraqi
custody by the end of the year.
"If he is released from United States custody, there is little doubt
that Daqduq will return to the battlefield and resume his terrorist
activities against the United States and our interests," a July 21 letter by
20 senators to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said.
Over the last two months, authorities have reported a major increase in
insurgency attacks in Baghdad. But in July, assassinations and car bombings
dropped drastically, leading officials to believe that the militias were
planning a series of mass-casualty strikes.
"The Iraqi forces are strained and are not receiving sufficient
leadership to handle this alone," the official said.