Iran joins Sunnis to banish US
Correspondents in Baghdad
May 23, 2007
IRAN is secretly forging ties with al-Qa'ida elements and Sunni Arab militias in Iraq for a summer showdown with coalition forces intended to tip a wavering US Congress into voting for full military withdrawal, a report said yesterday.
The Guardian quoted a senior US official in Baghdad as saying Iran was "fighting a proxy war in Iraq and it's a very dangerous course for them to be following".
"They are already committing daily acts of war against US and British forces," the official said.
There have been numerous reports of Iranian involvement in Iraq. Last month the US military charged publicly for the first time that Shia Iranian spies were supporting Sunni extremists fighting US-led forces in Iraq.
Over the past two years, Washington and US commanders have accused Iranian elements of aiding Shia militias in their fight against Sunni Arabs in Iraq and US troops.
But displaying what he said were new Iranian weapons found in Baghdad, Major General William Caldwell said US authorities were now aware of Iranian help to the Sunni extremists who lead the insurgency.
The British newspaper quoted US officials as saying Iran had a broader strategy. "They (Iran) are behind a lot of high-profile attacks meant to undermine US will and British will, such as the rocket attacks on Basra palace and the Green Zone (in Baghdad). The attacks are directed by the Revolutionary Guard, who are connected right to the top (of Iran's Government)."
The official told The Guardian that US commanders were bracing for a nationwide, Iranian-orchestrated northern summer offensive, linking al-Qa'ida and Sunni insurgents to Tehran's Shia militia allies. Tehran hoped to trigger upheaval in Washington and a US retreat.
The US officials expected that al-Qa'ida and Iran would attempt to increase the propaganda and violence in the lead-up to General David Petraeus's statement in September in which he will report to Congress on President George W.Bush's controversial, six-month "surge" of 30,000 troop reinforcements.
"Certainly it is going to pick up from their side. There is significant latent capability in Iraq, especially Iranian-sponsored capability," the US official told the newspaper.
"They can turn it up whenever they want. You can see that from the pre-positioning that's been going on and the huge stockpiles of Iranian weapons that we've turned up in the last couple of months," the official said.
While Iran has close links to Iraq's Shia political parties and militias, until now it had avoided collaboration with al-Qa'ida.
US officials also said they had proof that Iran had reversed its policy in Afghanistan and was nowsupporting and supplying the Taliban.