(CNN) - Vice President Joe Biden delivered an optimistic assessment of the political situation in Iraq on Monday, predicting the successful formation of a new unity government in Baghdad and declaring that attempts by al Qaeda to inflame sectarian tensions have "utterly failed."
Biden also dismissed the impact of alleged Iranian attempts to manipulate and control the Iraqi political process. He declared Iranian influence in Iraq to be "minimal" and "greatly exaggerated."
He asserted that the overall level of violence in Iraq has now declined to the point that some early U.S. veterans of the conflict "would not recognize" the country today. The roughly 650,000-member Iraq security force is "already leading the way to defend and protect [the] country," he said.
The vice president's remarks, delivered at a gathering of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Indianapolis, Indiana, came a little over a week before the August 31 deadline for the conclusion of the U.S. combat mission in Iraq.