Feb 11, 2007
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The U.S. military Sunday presented evidence it says shows an elite Iranian force under the command of Iran's supreme leader is behind bombings that have killed at least 170 U.S. troops in Iraq.
U.S. officials have made general statements in the past year about Iranian involvement in Iraq, but haven't provided many details.
The charges came at a Baghdad briefing by a senior defense official, a senior defense analyst and an explosives expert, all of whom asked to remain unnamed.
The officials focused on EFPs, or explosively formed penetrators, as evidence that Iran is involved in arming Iraqi insurgents. EFPs can punch through heavily armored vehicles.
The U.S. military officials said EFPs are manufactured in such a specific way that they can be traced to Iran.
Also, the U.S. military says 81 mm mortar shells used in deadly attacks in Iraq can also be directly traced to Iran.
The U.S. military said the munitions are being provided to Shiite groups in Iraq by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard's Quds force, which answers directly to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The military officials said a senior operations officer for the Quds force was among several Iranian officers arrested in Irbil, Iraq, in the past few weeks.
According to the U.S. military, other Iranian officers have provided information that Iran also is arming a prominent Iraqi political organization.
The officers were detained during a December raid on the Baghdad compound of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a powerful Shiite political group with close ties to Iran.
The raid also netted documents that confirmed the arms sale, the U.S. military said.
Officials with the political organization said the munitions were used for security purposes. However, the U.S. military officials disputed that, saying the kind of mortars and sniper rifles provided are not used for self-defense.
In an interview Friday with National Public Radio, Iranian Ambassador to the United Nations Javad Zarif said Iran has not provided weapons to Iraqi insurgents and does not want to do so.
"Iran has no interest in providing weapons to any insurgent groups in Iraq. But the problem is that the United States has decided on a policy and is trying to find or fabricate evidence if it cannot find one -- and I believe it hasn't been able to find an evidence -- in order to substantiate and corroborate that policy," he said.
"And that seems to be at the bottom of this problem, and it's an alarming problem because if you're looking for a crisis, then you're certainly not looking for solutions."
Some Iraq war critics are skeptical about the U.S. military's contention that Iran -- which has good diplomatic relations with Iraq -- is trying to foment warfare there.
They liken the Bush administration's highlighting of Iranian involvement in Iraq to the administration's run-up to the war in Iraq, contending officials are attempting a find a reason to invade Iran. The administration denies this.
Before the Iraq war, the administration warned that Saddam Hussein's regime harbored weapons of mass destruction and hinted of an operational link between al Qaeda terrorists and Iraq -- information never proven.
The plan to secure Iraq's capital will move to a higher level this week when Iraqi army and police forces close down 10 areas of Baghdad, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said Sunday.
Those areas will be shut down to root out terrorists and their weapons, the prime minister said, and to secure homes and buildings which people have been forced to leave.
Al-Maliki expressed confidence in the security plan, which will be supported by U.S. forces, and repeated that the operation will deal with all outlaws in the same manner, regardless of their affiliation.
Some had predicted that followers of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mehdi Army militia -- which has been blamed for much of the sectarian violence in Iraq -- would be overlooked in the security crackdown, since the al-Sadr movement has backed al-Maliki.
But the arrest Thursday of Deputy Health Minister Hakem Abbas al-Zamili, who is linked to al-Sadr's group, appeared to signal al-Maliki's tough stance.
The raid in which al-Zamili was detained was conducted by special Iraqi army forces backed by U.S. advisers.
The deputy minister is accused of corruption and of being implicated in the deaths of other employees of the Ministry of Health, according to U.S. officials.
Gunmen, mortar fire and bombings killed 25 people and left 48 others wounded across Iraq on Sunday, Iraqi officials said.
The deadliest attack occurred Sunday morning near Tikrit. Twelve people were killed -- including eight police officers -- and 18 others were injured when a suicide bomber detonated his explosives-laden truck near the Dour police headquarters, a Salaheddin Joint Coordination Center official said.
West of Mosul, gunmen ambushed and killed eight men who were riding home in a minibus after registering as border guards at a recruitment center in Sinjar, local police said.
Sunday afternoon, 23 people were wounded when mortar rounds slammed into three separate locations in Mosul, including an outdoor market, an official with Mosul police said. Separately, Mosul police said they recovered five bullet-riddled bodies, three of them police, in various neighborhoods on Sunday.
In the capital, two civilians were killed and three more were wounded when a car bomb exploded in western Baghdad's Rowad square Sunday, a Baghdad police official said.
In Baghdad, two people were killed and one was wounded when gunmen opened fire on Nahdha highway around 3 p.m. local time, Baghdad police said.
Clashes between Iraqi police and gunmen in western Baghdad's Mansur neighborhood Sunday left one civilian dead and another wounded, police said.
And in eastern Baghdad, gunmen fired on a car carrying Iraqi police officers Gen. Ayad Fadhil and Col. Abdul Karim Abbas in Zayuna neighborhood. Both men were wounded.
On Saturday, a U.S. Task Force Lightning soldier was shot and later died from the wound after the soldier's patrol encountered enemy gunfire during combat operations in Diyala province, a U.S. military statement said.
The death raises the number of U.S. troops killed in the nearly 4-year-old Iraq war to 3,114 and brings the toll so far this month to 38. Seven civilian contractors of the Defense Department have also been killed in the war.