Sunday, April 27, 2008

Joint Chiefs chairman says Iranian aid to Basra jihadists "very, very visible in ways that we hadn't seen before"

"A U.S. official told The Washington Times on the condition of anonymity that weapons captured in Basra were Iranian-made and had 'recent manufacturing dates' on them."

1938 Alert. "Iranian arms aid 'visible' in Basra," by Sara A. Carter for The Washington Times:

The top U.S. military officer yesterday said Iranian aid to Iraqi insurgents became "very, very visible" during the recent unrest in Basra, in violation of earlier promises to reduce support for terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan. Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters at a Pentagon press briefing that evidence collected in Iraq shows Iran's dismissive attitude toward U.S. requests to stop supplying weapons and training to terrorists and insurgents in Iraq.

"The Iranian government pledged to halt such activities some months ago. It's plainly obvious they have not. Indeed, they seem to have gone the other way," he said. "In these last couple years, you know, that tensions continue to rise, Iran does not respond, and in fact they seem to be ratcheting it up in terms of their support for terrorism."

The admiral said the fighting in Iraq's southern oil hub disclosed that Iran had a significant "level of involvement" in the insurgency.

"It became very, very visible in ways that we hadn't seen before," he said.

Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top commander in Iraq who was nominated this week to head Central Command and oversee the entire Middle East, is expected to give testimony in the upcoming weeks, at which he will reveal that Iran has not kept its word and continues to supply weapons to insurgent forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"In that regard, certainly there is an increasing amount of evidence that in fact [Iran] is going in the other direction," Adm. Mullen said.

A U.S. official told The Washington Times on the condition of anonymity that weapons captured in Basra were Iranian-made and had "recent manufacturing dates" on them.

The official also said it is "very well-known that Iran has direct ties to a number of groups operating in Basra" and noted that Iran's Shi'ite-led government has an obvious interest in seeing a Shi'ite-led government in Baghdad.

Forces led by anti-American cleric Sheik Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army fought Iraqi forces for days in Basra last month. There are an estimated 60,000 fighters in the Madhi Army, with at least 5,000 thought to be highly trained commandos. The group is said to be gaining strength after its strong fight in Basra and in Sadr City, a mainly Shi'ite neighborhood in Baghdad. The sheik himself is widely thought to be in Iran.

Adm. Mullen said that Iran's Revolutionary Guard, or Quds Forces, and the Iranian government present an "increasingly lethal and malign influence," about which he is "extremely concerned." Iran's Quds Forces were established in the 1980s and, contrary to Iran's long-standing claims that it is a volunteer force outside its control, actually reports directly to Iran's top leadership.

He also alluded to Iraqi Shi'ite militias receiving training across the border in Iran.

He said that while U.S. military officials don't have a "smoking gun" to prove Tehran's top leaders are involved, it's hardly likely that "there isn't knowledge there as well."

Adm. Mullen said that Iran continues "to train Iraqis in Iran to come back and fight Americans and the coalition" and that Iran continues "to broadly support terrorists in other parts of the region, whether it's Hezbollah or Hamas, and in fact, we're seeing some evidence that they're supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan."

No comments: