Iran's alleged influence over groups in Iraq that inflict violence on U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians has become another source of tension between Washington and Tehran. Experts assess Iran's connections to the conflict in Iraq.
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The Iran connection in Iraq. We start with some background.
On Sunday, the top U.S. commander in Iraq again accused Iran of military meddling there and stepped up the rhetorical combat with the Iranian regime. General David Petraeus said that Iran’s paramilitary Quds Force was supplying weapons that kill American troops, and he told reporters that the Iranian ambassador to Iraq is a member of that force.
Petraeus said, “They are responsible for providing the weapons, the training, the funding, and in some cases the direction for operations that have indeed killed U.S. soldiers. The Quds Force controls the policy for Iraq.”
The Iranians responded saying, “These are not new comments. It is baseless and not right.”
The Quds Force is part of Iran’s larger Revolutionary Guards, which was recently labeled a terrorist organization in a non-binding vote by a large majority in the U.S. Senate.
Petraeus provided no evidence for his assertions, including the specific allegation about Iran’s ambassador to Iraq, Hassan Kazemi Qomi, but the Bush administration has increasingly sought to blame Iran for destabilizing Iraq. Last month, the president linked his Iraq policy to keeping Iran in check.
GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States:
A free Iraq will counter the destructive ambitions of Iran.
U.S. military officials have shown reporters large caches of weapons they say came from Iran. In particular, officials point to one devastating variant of the roadside bomb: the explosively formed penetrator. The EFP, as it is called, can destroy the largest battle tank in the U.S. arsenal.
Tensions have been exacerbated by repeated U.S. detentions of Iranian operatives in Iraq, amid an escalating war of words between Washington and Tehran.