CIA director: Iran general ‘destabilizing’ efforts in Iraq

CIA director: Iran general ‘destabilizing’ efforts in Iraq

WASHINGTON – The Associated Press
CIA director: Iran general ‘destabilizing’ efforts in Iraq

Director of the Central Intelligence Agency John Brennan. REUTERS Photo

Having the leader of Iran’s elite Quds Force direct Iraqi forces battling the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is complicating the U.S. mission against terrorism and contributing to destabilization in Iraq, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency said March 22.

The comments by CIA Director John Brennan on “Fox News Sunday” are among the strongest yet voiced by U.S. officials about the involvement of shadowy Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in the war against the extremist group.

Brennan described Soleimani as being “very aggressive and active” as he advises Shiite militias battling the extremists, most recently in the ongoing offensive targeting Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s hometown.
Brennan said he “wouldn’t consider Iran an ally right now inside Iraq.”

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, testifying at a congressional hearing this past week, said the U.S. worries that Shiite militiamen eventually might turn against Sunni and Kurdish Iraqis, further destabilizing the country.

But Brennan said he did not believe the presence of Soleimani and his advisers pointed to Iran having a larger role in Iraq and its future, while acknowledging that it was not for lack of trying. Baghdad’s Shiite-led government has forged closer ties with Iran.

“We’re not letting them play that role. I think they’re working with the Iraqis to play that role,” the CIA head said. “We’re working with the Iraqis, as well.”

Brennan pointed to the Iraqis themselves for the country’s instability, rather than the pullout of U.S. troops. Iraqi security forces crumbled in the face of a lightning offensive last summer from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The militants now hold a third of Iraq and neighboring Syria in their self-declared caliphate.

“I think the fault really lies with a number of the Iraqis who wasted and squandered the opportunity they had after the government was reconstituted not to put at rest some of these sectarian tensions and not to be more inclusive as far as bringing the Sunni community in,” Brennan said.