Jerusalem – A leading Brookings Institution defense analyst, according to The Middle East Newsline, warns Iran has become Iraq’s leading threat.

“I think Iran is the main problem right now,” Brookings’ analyst Michael O’Hanlon told the U.S.-operated RFE/RL network. “Al-Qaida is probably number two. It’s still a serious problem, and it could get worse. But al-Qaida is very much on the run, and it has fewer and fewer sanctuaries within the country.”

Last Wednesday, Joint Chiefs’ Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen said he was prepared to recommend non-specific additional American military reductions in Iraq. Adm. Mullen told a briefing that security conditions in Iraq were better than had been envisioned.

Mr. O’Hanlon, who returned from a tour of Iraq last month, said Iran has become the leading facilitator of Shi’ite insurgency groups in Iraq. He charged Iran supplies weapons and training to a range of insurgency groups in an effort to foment chaos in Iraq.

“The Iranians are arming and equipping and funding every imaginable group, and often just trying to stoke violence for its own sake,” Mr. O’Hanlon said. “And that’s starting to create a nationalistic backlash among the Iraqi people and government against Iran. There’s a chance that Iran won’t be able to play this game as well as it has in the past.”

Mr. O’Hanlon’s assessment differed from that of U.S. commanders in Iraq.

In briefings throughout 2008, the commanders have called al-Qaida the leading threat to Iraqi stability.

Still, Mr. O’Hanlon agreed with U.S. commanders that the Iraq Army continues growing stronger and restoring order in Shi’ite insurgency strongholds.

He cited Basra, the target of a major Iraqi-U.S. operation in March and April 2008, as a prime example.

“The Iraqi army is now really in charge along with the police,” Mr. O’Hanlon said. “Now they [Iraq Army] still need our assistance in certain ways, but they don’t need us, in most cases, to be the lead force. And that’s very good news for Americans who are looking for a day when we can pull ourselves safely.”

David Bedein can be reached at dbedein@israelbehindthenews.com. His Web site is www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com

©The Bulletin 2008

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David Bedein is an MSW community organizer and an investigative journalist.   In 1987, Bedein established the Israel Resource News Agency at Beit Agron to accompany foreign journalists in their coverage of Israel, to balance the media lobbies established by the PLO and their allies.   Mr. Bedein has reported for news outlets such as CNN Radio, Makor Rishon, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, BBC and The Jerusalem Post, For four years, Mr. Bedein acted as the Middle East correspondent for The Philadelphia Bulletin, writing 1,062 articles until the newspaper ceased operation in 2010. Bedein has covered breaking Middle East negotiations in Oslo, Ottawa, Shepherdstown, The Wye Plantation, Annapolis, Geneva, Nicosia, Washington, D.C., London, Bonn, and Vienna. Bedein has overseen investigative studies of the Palestinian Authority, the Expulsion Process from Gush Katif and Samaria, The Peres Center for Peace, Peace Now, The International Center for Economic Cooperation of Yossi Beilin, the ISM, Adalah, and the New Israel Fund.   Since 2005, Bedein has also served as Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research.   A focus of the center's investigations is The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In that context, Bedein authored Roadblock to Peace: How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict - UNRWA Policies Reconsidered, which caps Bedein's 28 years of investigations of UNRWA. The Center for Near East Policy Research has been instrumental in reaching elected officials, decision makers and journalists, commissioning studies, reports, news stories and films. In 2009, the center began decided to produce short movies, in addition to monographs, to film every aspect of UNRWA education in a clear and cogent fashion.   The center has so far produced seven short documentary pieces n UNRWA which have received international acclaim and recognition, showing how which UNRWA promotes anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in their education'   In sum, Bedein has pioneered The UNRWA Reform Initiative, a strategy which calls for donor nations to insist on reasonable reforms of UNRWA. Bedein and his team of experts provide timely briefings to members to legislative bodies world wide, bringing the results of his investigations to donor nations, while demanding reforms based on transparency, refugee resettlement and the demand that terrorists be removed from the UNRWA schools and UNRWA payroll.   Bedein's work can be found at: www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com and www.cfnepr.com. A new site,unrwa-monitor.com, will be launched very soon.