Daily Mail – July 3, 2011
Iran has been funnelling weapons to America’s enemies in Iraq and Afghanistan to weaken Western influence in the region, reports the Wall Street Journal.
The paper quotes senior U.S. officials, who say Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has been sending weapons to militia allies in Iraq and Afghanistan in recent months.
The Revolutionary Guard has smuggled rocket-assisted exploding projectiles to Iraq, officials told the paper, and these weapons have resulted in the deaths of American troops.
Iranians have also reportedly sent long-range rockets to the Taliban in Afghanistan, who continue to battle U.S. and coalition forces.
The U.S. has been preparing to draw down troops from Afghanistan after nearly a decade of conflict in the country, but hopes to leave stable, pro-Western governments there and in Iraq.
Maj. Gen. James Buchanan, the U.S. military’s top spokesman in Iraq, told the Wall Street Journal: ‘I think we are likely to see these Iranian-backed groups continue to maintain high attack levels’ as the exit date nears.
‘But they are not going to deter us from doing everything we can to help the Iraqi security forces’, he said.
In June, 15 U.S. servicemen were killed in Iraq, the most in more than two years.
The U.S. has attributed all the attacks to Shiite militias it says are trained by the Revolutionary Guards, rather than traditional foes al Qaeda.
Officials are worried that Iran’s stepped-up aggression in the Middle East may lead to more clashes with Tehran, especially as there have recently been a few near misses with Iranian forces.
Just a few years ago, hawks within the U.S. government were calling for an invasion of Iran, so it’s not inconceivable that tensions could mount again.
Officials have said the Taliban’s ability to hit targets has roughly doubled, thanks to rockets that appear to have been supplied by the Revolutionary Guard’s overseas unit, the Qods Force.
The hostility also comes amid reports of tension within Iran between controversial President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Many of the outspoken president’s closest aides have been detained on alleged corruption charges in recent weeks.
In recent months, according to U.S. officials, Iran has stepped up intelligence and propaganda activities in Egypt, Bahrain and Yemen, where pro-U.S. leaders have either fallen or come under intense pressure.
Tehran has also reportedly sent advisers to Syria to help President Bashar al-Assad.
Iranian officials have denied that the Revolutionary Guard armed militants in Iraq and Afghanistan.
They claim U.S.officials made up these stories to justify their own military presence in the area.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said: ‘This is the propaganda of the Americans. They are worried because they have to leave Iraq very soon, according to the plan.
‘They are better off going home and sorting out their own domestic problems’.
Iranian officials have also accused the U.S. and Israel of interfering in their country, including assassinating Iranian nuclear scientists and supporting opposition groups.
The U.S. and Israel have denied this.
Ayatollah Khamenei told Afghan President Hamid Karzai last week: ‘Americans want to have permanent bases in Afghanistan, and this is dangerous because the real security will not be established as long as the American military forces are present’.
U.S. officials say the Qods Force is training and arming three militias that have attacked U.S. and Iraqi forces.
These include Kata’ib Hezbollah, or Brigades of the Party of God, and the Promise Day Brigade and Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, the latter of which are offshoots of the Mahdi Army headed by the anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who lives in Iran.
Kata’ib Hezbollah has recently stepped up attacks on U.S. troops with IRAMs, or improvised rocket-assisted munitions. These are often propane tanks packed with explosives and launched from the backs of flatbed trucks with rockets.
Kata’ib Hezbollah claimed credit for a June 6 IRAM attack that killed six American troops at Camp Victory, near Baghdad, while three Americans were killed this week when an IRAM struck a base near the Iranian border.
Gen. Buchanan said: ‘They want to claim credit for making us leave Iraq.