U.S. Wary of Iran's Growing Activity in Iraq

[Chicago Tribune] Liz Sly - U.S. military officials are voicing increasing concern that Iranian-backed Shiite militants are stepping up their activities in Iraq, as Iranian President Ahmadinejad prepares to make a historic visit to Baghdad that is expected to reinforce Iran's expanding influence. The U.S. military refers to the cells operated by Shiite extremists as Special Groups. The U.S. military is certain that they receive arms, training, and funding from the Quds Force, the elite and secretive foreign-operations wing of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps. "We are certain there are elements, including the Quds Force, who continue to train, finance and equip these people," said senior military spokesman Rear Adm. Gregory Smith. "They send Iraqis in [to Iran] and put them back on the border like wind-up toys. They're out there roaming around with all this training behind them and they're very lethal," said Smith. The Iraqi National Intelligence Service warned that Iranian agents are planning to stage attacks against the U.S.-allied Sunni Awakening movement, which has been instrumental in driving Al-Qaeda in Iraq out of many strongholds. "Iranian military intelligence services have dispatched agents to sabotage the Awakening Councils all over Iraq," said intelligence chief Mohammed Abdullah al-Shahwani. Should a disciplined and powerful Hizbullah-like force emerge in Iraq, "the Shiite groups could potentially be the most lethal long-term threat to Iraq," Smith said.

2008-03-03 01:00:00

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