In his Capitol Hill testimony, Tuesday, General David Petraeus, the commander of all U.S. forces in Iraq, concluded that Iran has played a major role in the Shi'ite revolt and the surge of violence in Iraq.
Citing DoD officials, Petraeus said Teheran has been funding, training, arming and directing Shi'ite militias in central and southern Iraq.
Petraeus further noted that Iran's influence on militia groups is the longest-term threat to the liability of a democratic Iraq.
"The flare-up [in Basra] also highlighted the destructive role Iran has played in funding, training, arming and directing the so-called special groups," the army general claimed.
General Petraeus added that the recent increase of violence in southern Iraq has "generated renewed concerns about Iran in the minds of many Iraqi leaders."
U.S. ambassador to Baghdad, Ryan Crocker, also at the hearing, said that Iran was undermining the efforts of the Iraqi government to establish a secure and stable state.
"The Special Groups activities have, in fact, come out in greater relief during the violence of recent weeks," Petraeus said. "It is they who have the expertise to shoot rockets more accurately, shoot mortars more accurately, and to employ some of the more advanced material — the explosively formed projectiles and the like — that have not just killed our soldiers and Iraqi soldiers, but also have been used to assassinate two southern governors in past months and two southern police chiefs."
"We should all watch Iranian actions closely in the weeks and months ahead, as they will show the kind of relationship Iran wishes to have with its neighbor and the character of future Iranian involvement in Iraq," Petraeus said.
Crocker also stressed the Iranian influence over the government of Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki as well as the Shi'ite community. The ambassador said the United States was ready to support what he termed constructive relations between Iran and Iraq.
"The extent of Iran's malign influence was dramatically demonstrated when militia elements armed and trained by Iran clashed with Iraqi government forces in Basra and Baghdad,'' Crocker said.
In his testimony, Petraeus said the U.S. military, with more than 150,000 soldiers, required at least 140,000 troops in Iraq over the next six months. He warned that the security situation was fragile and could undergo a sudden decline.
"This approach does not allow establishment of a set withdrawal timetable,'' Petraeus said. "However, it does provide the flexibility those of us on the ground need to preserve the still-fragile security gains our troopers have fought so far and sacrifice so much to achieve.''