As a result of the intelligence reports about Kataib Hezbollah's apparent preparations, Odierno said US forces had “increased our security in some of our bases.” He said that the US would not adjust plans to cut troop numbers from 74,000 today to 50,000 noncombat soldiers by the end of August.
Iran's evolving approach
Odierno said that while any connection between Kataib Hezbollah and the Iranian government was “very convoluted,” the recent militant activities are “clearly connected" to Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard force.
“What we do know is the people that are getting ready to conduct this attack went back, got special training in Iran, they came back [to Iraq] and we knew that there were experts sent from Iran into Iraq to help them to do this in the last month or so,” said Odierno. The intelligence details could not be independently verified.
Historically, elements of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard have been known to conduct operations abroad without the knowledge or direct approval of the civilian leadership in Tehran. Such operations have, at times, appeared to directly undermine Iran’s stated policies.
Whatever role elements in Iran may have played in preparing Iraqi Shiite militants for new attacks, US officers say the Islamic Republic has been moving away from overt military influence in Iraq, which was evident especially – according to US military claims – since 2007.
“Like anybody else, they reassess how their strategy is working,” and events in Iraq had often “backfired” on Iran, said Odierno. He pointed to the 2008 US-Iraq signing of the Status of Forces Agreement, provincial elections in early 2009, and the national elections in March in which candidates playing to nationalist sentiment – rather than sectarian sympathies – did best.