By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
May 14, 2008 - So-called "special groups" terrorists operating in Iraq apparently are receiving training, arms and funding from Iranian sources, a senior U.S. military official posted in Iraq said today. "Over the course of the last several months, we have publicly discussed numerous times, and shown numerous times, the evidence on four separate occasions on what we have found and continue to find: Iranian-made weapons in the hands of criminals in Iraq," Army Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner told reporters during a Baghdad news conference.
U.S. officials previously have discussed evidence that indicates some Iraqi militants "are being trained in Iran and receiving funding from Iranian Quds forces to conduct violent attacks in Iraq," Bergner said. The Quds Force is a branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard widely believed to be responsible for operations, including terrorist operations, outside Iran's borders.
Such Iranian meddling in Iraqi affairs violates Iraq's sovereignty, Bergner pointed out.
"With this evidence, the government of Iraq has recently engaged its neighbor and again sought fulfillment of Iranian commitments previously made to stop the flow of weapons, training and funding" to insurgent groups in Iraq, Bergner said.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has established a committee to collect and analyze the reports of Iranian activity and to develop a unified approach to address the issue, Bergner said.
"We will continue to provide information and evidence we have collected to the government of Iraq, to be considered along with their own evidence from the Iraqi security forces," Bergner said. "As coalition forces, we will continue to fulfill our commitment under the United Nations mandate, together with our Iraqi partners, to support the government of Iraq's efforts to improve security and stability."
U.S. and Iraqi forces are targeting Iranian-supplied insurgents in Iraq, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said during a question-and-answer session with members of the Heritage Foundation in Colorado Springs, Colo., yesterday. However, he said that such initiatives are internal to Iraq, and that diplomatic discussions between the Iraqi and Iranian governments are continuing.
"I think we have a number of activities under way to try to deal with particularly what the Iranians are doing in support of the special groups and others in Iraq, in terms of going after them," Gates said.
Gates applauded Maliki's recent decision to dispatch Iraqi troops into Basra to take on Iranian-backed extremists.
The Iraqi forces "have found substantial caches of Iranian-supplied weapons" in Basra, Gates said. This development, he said, has opened the eyes of the Iraqi government regarding the apparent Iranian complicity in supplying arms and other materials to some insurgent groups in Iraq.
"I think it has awakened them to the reality of the magnitude of Iranian meddling in Iraq," Gates said. "And, so, we are being very aggressive in going after the networks in Iraq and the individuals who are interfering and are supplying weapons from Iran."
The apparent Iranian supply links to some insurgent groups in Iraq is being taken seriously by U.S. and Iraqi officials, Gates noted.
"We have a number of other activities under way" within Iraq designed to undercut Iranian efforts to supply insurgents, the secretary said.