WASHINGTON – A high-ranking U.S. commander in Iraq says that there is evidence Iran has abided by its promise to stop weapons shipments into Iraq, and Iraq is in a period of "sustained security" where, with help from Iraqis, the country could finally turn the corner against the insurgency.
Brig. Gen. James Boozer, deputy commanding general of U.S. forces in Northern Iraq, told FOX News in an exclusive interview Thursday that U.S. forces continue to recover what appear to be Iranian weapons, but they do not believe they have been sent since Iran's leaders told the Iraqi government they would put an end to the materiel movements.
"There has been, as you know, some finding of some EFP (explosively formed penetrators) devices, some Iranian arms and ammo in some of these cache sites that we've uncovered. But, it is hard to determine when they got there and how long they've been there," Boozer said.
"We've seen no increase in or any indication that the Iranians have stepped up the influx of arms or weapons into Iraq. It looks like they are holding up to their agreement," he added.
Boozer's comments folloed those byMaj. Gen. James Simmons, a deputy commander of Multinational Corps-Iraq, who told reporters that the number of roadside bombs either found or exploded nationwide had fallen from 3,239 in March to 1,560 last month.The October figure was the lowest since September 2005, he said.
The Associated Press reported that Simmons said the decline included all types of roadside bombs, including lethal "explosively formed penetrators" -- the signature weapon of Shiite extremists that can hurl a fist-sized chunk of molten copper through the thickest U.S. vehicles.
Earlier this month Defense Secretary Robert Gates told reporters that the Iranians had apparently assured the Iraqi government that it would stop the flow into Iraq of bomb-making materials and other weaponry.
Boozer also discussed an insurgent house in Northern Iraq recently uncovered by U.S. troops earlier this month. The building appears to have been set up to perform torture, with military photos showing shackles in an otherwise bare room, a blood-stained wall. The military reported it smelled of rotting flesh.
Over several days, troops also found an IED factory, a weapons cache, and masks that could be used to filter out harmful gases from nuclear, biological or chemical weapons — NBC's, as Boozer calls them.
"If these were NBC masks, those things are used to deter an individual from being contaminated with nuclear, biological or chemical agents," Boozer said.
Dovetailing with reports that military officials are increasingly less concerned about the insurgency in Iraq, Boozer suggested that militarily, Iraq is in the best situation it has been since the March 2003 invasion, calling it a "sustained security period."
"I've heard 'tipping point,' 'turning point' used as a description. I will tell you, I think we're at here an historical point in the history of Iraq. We are clearly building the Iraqi security force capability," Boozer said.
He pointed to one region in Northern Iraq where there are four Iraqi divisions, totaling roughly 55,000 troops, and they are "getting better and better every day, conducting independent operations on a daily basis" — with support still of U.S. troops, but conducting some independent mission.
"I believe that we — as long as we can sustain this momentum in terms of security — ... that we will allow the government of Iraq to stand on its two feet, and start providing essential services to the people. It is this sustained security that will enable them to do that," Boozer said.
"So in terms of the surge forces doing what they were here to do, they have done that."
Given that, he said, "We would expect to see the government of Iraq to start to execute some programs to provide essential services to their people."
FOX News' Jennifer Griffin and Justin Fishel and The Associated Press contributed to this report.