As New York Times cites anonymous officials on Iran intelligence, Iraqi government fires back
As anonymous American officials continue to leak information suggesting Iran's involvement in Iraq to the New York Times, even Iraq has begun fighting back. A top Iraqi official said Sunday there was no conclusive evidence that Shiite extremists have been directly supplied with some Iranian arms as alleged by the United States.
Asked about reports that some rockets made in 2007 or 2008 and seized in raids against militias were directly supplied by Iran, government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh replied: "There is no conclusive evidence."
The Times was among those that led the charge. They also reported that bombs supplied to Iraq were found to have been of Iranian manufacture.
In Monday's edition, the Times Michael Gordon reported that "militants from the Lebanese group Hezbollah have been training Iraqi militia fighters at a camp near Tehran, according to American interrogation reports that the United States has supplied to the Iraqi government."
"An American official said the account of Hezbollah’s role was provided by four Shiite militia members who were captured in Iraq late last year and questioned separately," Gordon added. He did not supply the name of the official, as is standard in articles concerning American intelligence.
On Sunday, Iraq spokesman al-Dabbagh said Iraq does not want trouble with any country, "especially Iran." al-Dabbagh's comments were picked up by Iranian news agencies.
The U.S. accuses Iran of financing and training Shiite militants in Iraq and of funneling lethal weapons into the country. Iranian officials have denied the allegations.
Al-Dabbagh said Iraq wants friendly ties with Iran and stressed both countries share common interests.
"We can't ignore or deny we are neighbors. We do not want to be pushed in a struggle with any country, especially Iran," he told a news conference.
"We are fed up with past tensions that we have paid a costly price for because some parties have pushed Iraq (in the past) to take an aggressive attitude to Iran."
But he also said a crackdown on Shiite militants will not stop, despite word that Iran will not restart security talks with the United States until the fighting is halted.
A five-member Iraqi delegation returned Saturday from Tehran where they held meetings aimed at halting the suspected Iranian aid to militiamen.
The Iraqi delegation was said to have carried documents and other material implicating the Quds Force in supplying weapons and training Shiite fighters.
U.S. military officials have said the evidence includes caches of weapons that have date stamps showing they were produced in Iran this year — including mortars, rockets and armor-piercing roadside bombs known as explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs.
According to officials familiar with the meeting, the delegation received a frosty reception from Iran, which questioned the origin of the documents. The officials asked not to be named for security reasons.
Iran's Fars news agency reported that Iranian negotiators told their Iraqi counterparts that as long as the U.S. carried out attacks against the Mahdi Army in Sadr City, Iran would not restart talks with the Americans.