Ralph Peters devotes his New York Post column today to an interesting interview with General Odierno. Reading General Odierno’s comments on the Iranian dimension of the challenge we confront in Iraq, it’s hard to be optimistic:
ASKED about Muqtada al-Sadr, Odierno responded: “He’s a figurehead . . . erratic in his behavior . . . unpredictable. . . but he’s the individual who reaches out to the Shia nobody else reaches out to. The problem is that he’s lost control of some parts of his movement, the Special Groups and others – many of whom are funded by Iran.
“We need to separate those elements and kill or capture them – while working with those closer to the mainstream.”
As for the militias that have alternately plagued Iraq and protected the people along sectarian lines, the general is convinced that “we must deal with the militia problem. . . Wherever possible, they’ll have to be integrated into the security forces.”
So what about Iran? “It’s a difficult problem . . . it’s important to have regional and international awareness of what they’re doing.”
But the general feels that, before we take any cross-border military action, we need to think through the second- and third-order effects. He’d much prefer a diplomatic solution – if possible.
Iran is the one nut we have yet to crack in Iraq, and it is extraordinarily late in the day to be hoping for a diplomatic solution.