George Casey Chief of Staff of the United States Army from 2007 to 2011 and served as the Commanding General, Multi-National Force – Iraq from 2004 to 2007
Good evening. I’m General George Casey and as you heard earlier, I was the U.S. Commander in Iraq from 2004 to 2007. And so I have some first-hand experience dealing with the forces of the Iranian regime. And I’ve been asked to share those experiences with you tonight because as I’ve been reading the press back in the United States, I hear people starting to say that because the situation in Iraq has gotten so bad that we might have common interests with the regime in Iran. I am here to tell you from my personal experience, that is not the case today and it certainly was not the case when I was in Iraq from 2004 to 2007.
I think it’s fundamental, it’s important that we remind ourselves that particularly with Iran we have fundamentally different views, and I believe this from early after I went into Iraq. I believe the regimes, goals, in Iraq were two-fold. One, that they wanted a friendly supportive Iraqi government in place. But two, they wanted the United States government to fail in its efforts to help the Iraqis build a government that was fairly representative of all of the ethnic and sectarian groups in Iraq. And I believe that type of government is fundamentally important to stability, not only in Iraq but also in the region.
And I watched how the regime pursued those goals aggressively through a three-pronged approach. First they built political influence by financial contributions to Iraqi political parties and political leaders. Second, they built public support by economic contributions to communities, especially in the southern part of the country. And third, they fostered sectarian violence. I can tell you that our knowledge of their activities grew over time, but by mid-2006, there was no question that the regime leadership was actively supporting terrorism inside Iraq to accomplish its political objectives. It was also crystal clear that they were playing a significant role in training and equipping Shia militias that had the effect of sustaining the sectarian struggle that went on there from 2006 to 2008. And lastly, because of that role they are directly responsible for the deaths of hundreds of coalition forces and thousands of Iraqis.
In the spring of 2006, Ambassador Khalilzad and I, the U.S. Ambassador, took that information to newly elected Prime Minister Maliki. We told him about the improvised explosive devices that could only have been made in Iran. We showed him pictures of modern Iranian weapons that we had found in Shia militia caches. We told them about the training camps inside Iran and we told them about the presence in Iraq. At the end of the briefing he looked at both of us and said, “They are conducting terrorism in my country?” We confirmed that later that year when we arrested six Quds Force operatives in a command center in Baghdad. And in that command center they had a map on the wall. And the map, the neighborhoods on that map were color-coded by ethnic group. And there were large arrows on the map showing the plan forced displacement of people from those neighborhoods.
I can tell you that given that experience, Iran, the Iranian regime will be destabilizing the region for some time to come, and that Iranian regime is not just a challenge for the people of Iran, for the people of Iraq, or for the region. It’s a challenge for the international community, and there can only be one conclusion and you’ve heard it many, many times already today. That regime must go. Thank you.
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