|General William Casey – Iran’s Role in Iraq|
Paris, June 23, 2012 - Thank you. Thank you all very much. It's a privilege to be here with you this afternoon. I've been asked to talk to you today about my personal experiences during my time in Iraq, my personal experiences with Iran's destabilizing influence in Iraq and with the MEK. I can tell you upfront that over time my knowledge and experience grew, but I left Iraq with two conclusions that I'll share with you now. The first, and this will come as no surprise to you, but the leadership of the Iranian regime clearly used terrorism as a means to accomplish its political and its ideological objectives in Iraq. [applause] And secondly, I can tell you that as a commander that lost men and women in Iraq, the Iranian regime's role in training and equipping the Shia militia played a significant role in extending the sectarian violence that engulfed the Baghdad area in 2006 and 2007 and is directly responsible for the killing of hundreds of Americans and thousands of Iraqis. [applause]
Now before I get into the specifics, I will tell you in the spirit of full transparency, that I am one of 26 Americans on (Amajala's) list that is denied travel to Iran. And I can tell you, that is one list I am not anxious to be taken off of. [applause] When I went into Iraq, we believed that the Iranians had two diametrically opposed goals. One, they wanted a friendly Iraqi government installed. And two they wanted the U.S. government to fail in its efforts to establish a democratic government inside of Iraq that respected the human rights of all Iraqis. It became clear to us over time that there was an active campaign that leveraged financial support to political organizations, humanitarian support across the south of Iraq, and military support to Shia militia to accomplish these objectives. I got my first indication of Iranian influence in Iraq about 60 days after I arrived. Some of you will recall that in the summer of 2004 coalition and Iraqi forces mounted a significant operation to break the stranglehold of the (Sadarist) militia on the important Iraqi town of (Najav). We succeeded. And in our review of our actions we found something that we almost lost in the heat of battle. We found an intercept  a Quds Force operative transmitting directly  the (Imam Ali) shrine to Tehran reporting on the battle.
Now while that was my first indication, it was just the beginning of what became a harbinger of things to come. Our knowledge of what the Iranians were up to grew over time, over the next 18 months, as the Iraqis elected a Parliament, developed and ratified a constitution, and elected a government based on that Constitution. And throughout that period we continued to follow their actions to train and equip the security forces and to influence the political process in Iraq to include the selection of two Iraqi prime ministers. I will tell you that I didn't grasp the full extent of Iranian activity until after the bombing of the (Alskari) Mosque in February of 2006. Around that time we began to see some troubling trends. First was that we found a new and very lethal improvised explosive device. And I will tell you, without getting technical about it, it was clear to us that parts of the IED had to be manufactured precisely, and tools for that didn't exist in Iraq. It could only come  Iran.
We had to work our way through the intelligence business. It's one thing to know that Iran is providing material and training, it's quite another to find the people that are conducting that provision of material and training in a city of 8 million people in a country of 27 million people. To do that we set up an intelligence cell that focused on nothing but determining the impact of malign and Iranian influence in Iraq. We also made sure that the new government of Iraq clearly understood what Iran was up to. And in summer of 2006 the prime minster of Iraq—the ambassador to Iraq and I briefed the prime minister of Iraq, Prime Minister Maliki. And we told him what the Iranians were doing. We told him about the weapons and ammunition. We told him about the training. We told him about the Quds force present. He got the message. And at the end of that briefing he looked at me and said, "They are conducting terrorism in our country." Yes, Prime Minister, they were.
Our suspicions were confirmed that December. That December we captured six Quds force operatives in a safe house in central Baghdad. One of the rooms was configured as a command center with maps on the walls, Bagdad identified by sectarian markings, and arrows were on the map to designate potential population movements. We also found weapons receipts for weapons that had come in  Iran. Four of those individuals had diplomatic credentials identifying them as an element of the Iranian state. Two did not, and we continued to hold them as we finished our evaluation. Probably the most disturbing element of that discovery was that safe house was directly linked to the (Badr corps) which is one of the significant Shia militias in Iraq. So it was clear that there were direct links.
So as I look back, it is absolutely clear to me that the Iranian regime uses terror as a means to accomplish its political and ideological objectives. They've done it in Iraq, they've done it elsewhere in the region and there's no doubt in my mind that they will continue to do it. I believe that we need all of our governments need to continue to focus our attention on Iran. And I believe that it's so linked—a regime that is so linked to terror cannot be trusted to possess nuclear weapons. [applause]
Now, if I could, I'll close with just a few words about my dealings with the MEK. I got to Iraq in July, 2004, just as the time that the MEK were receiving their protected status. I will tell you, we closely monitored the activities there at Camp Ashraf because we felt very strongly that we needed to honor the agreement that had been made by my predecessor to protect the MEK there at Camp Ashraf. We set up a system where we did weekly reviews. And my three generals who led those reviews for me are probably familiar to some of you: General Miller, General Brandenburg and General Gardiner. They briefed me weekly on goings on at Camp Ashraf. Never, never in any of those briefings was I informed of any adverse activity by the MEK. In fact, close cooperation was all that we ever received. And so  that perspective—[applause]—and so  that perspective I watched with grave concern the events of 2009 and 2011, those tragic events. And they only reinforced to me what I believe is the best opportunity for everyone, the rapid and safe removal of the MEK  Iraq. [applause] And I can tell you that I firmly believe that the best way to facilitate this is the removal of the MEK  the list of terrorist organizations. Thank you all very much. [applause]
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