George Casey General George Casey, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army (2007 to 2011)
Addressing “Free Iran – The Alternative” gathering in Paris in June 30, 2018
CASEY: I’d like to talk briefly about something that I have personal experience in that has been mentioned today, but I believe deserves deeper consideration. That is Iran’s meddling and destabilizing its neighbors.
You know, last Sunday, our Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo was asked by a journalist, “What is the U.S. goal with respect to Iran? He said, “Our goal is to push Iran to act like a normal country.” To act like a normal country. He said, “Don’t support terrorism, don’t launch missiles into international airports, and don’t be the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism.” He went on to say, “None of these things are difficult. We’re asking them to do the things that normal nations in the international community should do.” That sounds simple, doesn’t it?
Yet today, Iran through its terrorists in the Quds Force continues to support terrorism and destabilize not only its neighbors, but the entire region, and that’s not normal behavior. I firmly believe that no government that actively imports and exports terror can be a productive player in the world today. Change must come to Iran.
And I said, direct experience here, from our time in Iraq, many of us in the U.S. military have seen firsthand how Iran uses terrorism to accomplish its political objectives. As a coalition commander, I certainly saw that in Iraq when the regime used terrorism, sectarian violence to frustrate the goals of the United States and Iraqis to establish a representative democracy.
The approach that they used is three-prong. They bought political support through political contributions to Iraqi political leaders and political groups. They bought public support through economic support to communities in this other part of the country, and they fostered sectarian violence by providing training and equipment to the Shia militia organizations. By mid-2006, I can tell you, there was no question that they were doing this. I firmly believe that Iran bears responsibility, because their training and equipping of the Iraqi militia groups was a major factor in sustaining the sectarian violence that swept Iraq in 2006 and 2007.
To me, that makes Iran directly responsible for the deaths of hundreds of coalition forces and thousands of Iraqis. You might ask how can I be so sure about that? In 2006, my forces captured six Quds Force operatives in an operation cell in Baghdad that they shared with the Shia militia group. On the wall were maps of Baghdad that showed their operational plans for forced population movements, purely for sectarian purposes. There were ledgers, many books of the weapons transfers that came in and out of there. We had caught them red-handed in supporting sectarian violence and terrorism in one of their neighboring countries. That’s not what normal countries do.
As I look back on that now, I say that was 12 years ago. They are still destabilizing the region. I can only come to one conclusion—that change must come to Iran before Iran can behave as a normal country.