Iran may be curtailing the flow into Iraq of lethal armor-piercing projectiles that have become a major killer of U.S. troops, although more time is needed to confirm the trend, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and senior military officials said yesterday.
The number of explosively formed projectiles (EFPs) that have been detonated or found in Iraq has dropped by nearly half in recent months, from a peak of 99 in July to 53 last month, Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the commander in charge of day-to-day military operations in Iraq, said yesterday in a videoconference with Pentagon reporters.
Iranian leaders have given assurances to the Iraqi government that they will try to stop the flow of the projectiles and other weaponry from Iran, Gates said, but he added: "I don't know whether to believe them." He also said, "It's too early to tell" whether the flow has been significantly reduced.
U.S. forces have continued to find caches of EFPs, including one of the largest ever a week ago, Odierno said, but he noted that the uncovered shipments could pre-date any agreement to slow the flow of weapons. "In terms of Iran . . . it's unclear yet to me whether they have slowed down bringing in weapons and supporting the insurgency or not. I'll still wait and see," he said.
I absolutely don't want to go to war with Iran. I'd much prefer that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad respond to diplomatic efforts and live up to those Iranian assurances about EFP's, stopping the pursuit of nuclear weapons and halting the support of the terrorist insurgency that is killing U.S. servicemen and women. But such support can surely be construed as de facto armed conflict with us already. If there was a "rush to war" with Iran we'd already be fighting them. We cannot take that option off the table.
That said, if they have stopped providing these weapons to the terrorists in Iraq then it is a welcome step in the right direction, and a sign that opening more diplomatic efforts may be worth pursuing.