Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee today that “Iraq is ready to handle security without a significant U.S. military footprint.” The same day, an interesting report emerged in Iran’s state media. Multiple sources confirmed that the commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, met Iraqi army chief of staff Lieutenant General Babakir Zebari today in Tehran. This is the Babakir Zebari who declared in August 2010 that the Iraqi army would not be “fully ready” to assume control of Iraq’s security until 2020.
Zebari stressed during their meeting that Iraq “must” establish “stronger” ties with the Islamic Republic. Jafari stated that “Despite efforts by the U.S. and Israel, which are the true enemies of the two countries of Iran and Iraq, they have not been able to drive a wedge between the two nations, the two countries, and their armed forces.” Zaberi also met with IRGC ground forces commander General Mohammad Pakpour on Monday. It seems that the Iraqi military does not share Secretary Panetta’s confidence.
— Will Fulton is a research analyst for the Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute.