General David Petraeus, who commanded U.S. troops in Iraq during the 2007-2008 surge said in an interview: “The current Iranian regime is not our ally in the Middle East. It is ultimately part of the problem, not the solution.”
Petraeus, who was back in Iraq last week for the first time in more than three years, told the Washington Post: “The current Iranian regime is not our ally in the Middle East.”
“The more the Iranians are seen to be dominating the region, the more it is going to inflame Sunni radicalism and fuel the rise of groups like the Islamic State. While the U.S. and Iran may have convergent interests in the defeat of Daesh, our interests generally diverge.”
“Iranian power in the Middle East is thus a double problem. It is foremost problematic because it is deeply hostile to us and our friends. But it is also dangerous because, the more it is felt, the more it sets off reactions that are also harmful to our interests — Sunni radicalism and, if we aren't careful, the prospect of nuclear proliferation as well.”
Former CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus says the Islamic State is not the biggest threat facing the United States in Iraq.
“In fact, I would argue that the foremost threat to Iraq’s long-term stability and the broader regional equilibrium is not the Islamic State; rather, it is Shiite militias, many backed by — and some guided by — Iran,” Petraeus said in written comments to The Washington Post’s Beirut bureau chief.
“What has happened in Iraq is a tragedy — for the Iraqi people, for the region and for the entire world. It is tragic foremost because it didn't have to turn out this way,” Petraeus said.
“The hard-earned progress of the surge was sustained for over three years. What transpired after that, starting in late 2011, came about as a result of mistakes and misjudgments whose consequences were predictable.”
When asked about widely distributed photographs of the Iranian military leader in Iraq recently, Petraeus said he has “several thoughts when I see the pictures of him, but most of those thoughts probably aren’t suitable for publication in a family newspaper like yours.”
Suleimani “has played his hand well,” Petraeus said. “But this is a long game, so let’s see how events transpire.”
Petraeus also relayed an old story. In 2008 — the same year that the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad’s Green Zone was shelled by Iranian-backed militias — Suleimani sent a message to Petraeus, the retired general said. It read: “General Petraeus, you should be aware that I, Qassem Soleimani, control Iran’s policy for Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, and Afghanistan.”
He replied, through a messenger, by telling Suleimani to “pound sand.”
Petraeus blamed Nouri Al-Maliki for undoing alienating the Iraqi Sunnis that in his view opened the door to takeover of the Islamic State.
“The proximate cause of Iraq’s unraveling was the increasing authoritarian, sectarian and corrupt conduct of the Iraqi government and its leader after the departure of the last U.S. combat forces in 2011. The actions of the Iraqi prime minister undid the major accomplishment of the Surge. (They) alienated the Iraqi Sunnis and once again created in the Sunni areas fertile fields for the planting of the seeds of extremism, essentially opening the door to the takeover of the Islamic State. Some may contend that all of this was inevitable.”
“The tragedy is that political leaders failed so badly at delivering what Iraqis clearly wanted — and for that, a great deal of responsibility lies with Prime Minister Maliki.”
One of the measures he offered in confronting the current crisis in Iraq he said: “we need to recognize that the #1 long term threat to Iraq’s equilibrium — and the broader regional balance — is not the Islamic State, which I think is on the path to being defeated in Iraq and pushed out of its Iraqi sanctuary. The most significant long term threat is that posed by the Iranian-backed Shiite militias. If Daesh is driven from Iraq and the consequence is that Iranian-backed militias emerge as the most powerful force in the country — eclipsing the Iraqi Security Forces, much as Hezbollah does in Lebanon — that would be a very harmful outcome for Iraqi stability and sovereignty, not to mention our own national interests in the region.”