Some key excerpts from my interview today with Major General James E. Simmons, Deputy Commanding General for Support of Multi-National Forces, Iraq (transcript here).
On Iran’s aggression in Iraq:
HH: [D]o you think Iranian-backed attacks are increasing or decreasing right now?
JS: I believe that the Iranians have supplied, they have surged supplies, training and munitions into Iraq to counter our surge operations that we are conducting.
HH: And what level does that rise to? Are they doubling, tripling their effort?
JS: I would hate to put a number on it, but what we saw was in July, we had the highest number of EFP’s that we have had in theater. Those EFP’s come from Iran. We have still seen a significant uptick in EFP’s, although the numbers are probably going to be lower in August than they were in July. The number of rocket attacks and indirect fire attacks into our FOB’s and our camps has been elevated, and the fires have come predominantly from Shia-dominated areas, and those are Iranian made munitions that are being fired in that. And then we have some very clear evidence that there has been training that has been sponsored by folks that use the techniques that Iranians use to train people.
HH: Can you expand on that a little bit, General, as to what kind of evidentiary markers you find that would lead one to believe the Quds forces are involved, or Hezbollah?
JS: It’s the techniques that they use for in placing the weapons systems, particular the indirect fire systems that they’re using, which require some form of military training to be able to execute that.
On conditions in Basra:
HH: Now there were reports out of Basra a couple of weeks ago that after the Brits have withdrawn that the radicals had taken control of the city. Are those reports accurate?
JS: They are not accurate, and that is a fabrication at best. This was a planned turnover of the Palace and the PJCC to Iraqi control, to the Iraqi legitimate government forces. It was done to standard with, and to well-trained, well-equipped Iraqi Security Forces. There were some peaceful demonstrations that were celebratory in nature, but at no time was any Coalition forces threatened, and the local Iraqi officials under General Mohan, kept a good handle on the situation in Basra.
HH: So what is the situation then in Basra, because that Washington Post story made it sound like the Wild West without the saloons.
JS: It was a demonstration of OMS, or Shia people there that were celebrating, to the best of my knowledge, the return of an Iraqi landmark to the Iraqi government.
On the effect of American officers on the Iraqi Security Forces:
HH: Now General, when I was looking over your bio to prepare for this, you’ve served a whole bunch of places in the world, Germany, Korea, Kuwait, of course now in Iraq, so you’ve seen a lot of different foreign armies operating. Is the quality of the Iraqi officer corps of the sort that can preserve a military supporting a civilian government over the long haul? Or as we’ve seen before, a lot of Arab governments have fallen to a lot of army officers with guns drawn in coups. What’s that situation like?
JS: That, you know, Hugh, that’s a real good question. I have not personally observed political motivation from the senior leadership in the Iraqi Army. And what I see is some dedicated professionals who are seriously interested in the welfare of Iraq as a nation, and they are concerned about getting the insurgency under control, and making sure that they have an army that’s capable of defending Iraq against her traditional enemies here in the Middle East. Of course, there is a history in Iraq of the army selecting the leadership of the government. I mean, that has certainly happened here in Iraq during its relatively short history as a modern nation. But I have not seen that in dealing with the majority of the senior folks that I deal with. Now what I would tell you is that when you get further down the system, and you get down to the captains and the majors, they are very, very strongly influenced by our young leaders that are out there on the battlefield with them every day. And they are embracing the idea of the American armed forces about selfless service and dedication to the nation, and I see that as those more junior officers continue to develop and grow into leadership positions, that the Iraqi Armed Forces has a potential to have a very capable and professional armed forces that is loyal to the elected government.
I hope you’ll read the entire interview (or listen to it here when the audio is posted later tonight), because you won’t be getting this sort of information from the MSM, as demonstrated and explained by Jeff Goldstein in a comprehensive post on the abject failure of MSM when it comes Iraq.
UPDATE: A reaction to the interview from Hamilton, Madison and Jay.