Iran in Iraq

Yesterday, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen said Iran is directly responsible for fueling violence in Iraq. In an attempt to gain influence next door, Iranians, according to Mullen, with the full knowledge of the leadership in Tehran, are providing support (like “high-tech weapons”) to Shia groups in Iraq that are then targeting troops. But, Mullen said, there is no reason to believe “that they're going to stop that as our numbers come down.” That means if Washington keeps troops in Iraq after December 31, there has to be a plan in place to deal with Iran and stop the support.

The flies are still dropping within government. Another high-ranking official is set to leave the Pentagon. Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn will step down after the new Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta finds a replacement for him. Lynn is quite experienced when it comes to budget issues, experience that would have been helpful as the Panetta tries to make some serious budget cuts.

In the spirit of budget-slimming, President Obama, taking over for VP Joe Biden, met yesterday with a set of bipartisan congressional leaders attempting to cut the budget and raise the debt ceiling before Washington defaults. The president said he wasn’t looking for a short-term debt fix but wanted one that sorted things out through the 2012 election. Though Obama described the session as “very constructive,” White House spokesman Jay Carney clarified that there was no “breakthrough.” Another meeting is set for July 10.

Robert Ford, the U.S. ambassador to Syria, is in Hama, a city that has seen large protests and is no stranger to violence. In 1982, the government harshly cracked down on protesters to quell an uprising. As State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland described the situation in the city now, “A week ago Hama was the good news story. It was the town where people were being allowed to protest peacefully, and today we see security forces ringing the city.” Washington is, as a result, “greatly concerned about the situation” there.