In an interview today on CNN’s “State of the Union,” top US commander in Iraq General Ray Odierno sought to downplay the surging violence in Iraq, insisting it was the work of “small cells” and did not mark a significant opposition to the US military presence or the Iraqi government.
Recent weeks have seen a massive uptick in protests against the American presence and several high profile attacks against the government and against Shi’ite religious sites. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has blamed both al-Qaeda and the remnants of the Ba’athist government ousted over six years ago for the attacks.
Addressing his comments from last week that the US might have to “ignore” the June 30 deadline for removing troops from Iraq’s cities, Odierno insists that it is ultimately up to the Maliki government to decide whether or not US troops will ignore the deadline mandated in the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). Last month, Maliki said he would only allow the US to leave “100 percent secure areas.” Considering the violent trend in the nation, it’s doubtful any city would qualify.