Iran Focus: Baghdad, Jan. 06 - Iraq’s Defence Minister Hazem Shaalan scolded Iran on the eve of the meeting by the Foreign Ministers of Iraq’s neighbouring countries in Amman and said that over a million Iranians had entered the country to pose as Iraqis in the upcoming January 30th elections. In an interview with the Kuwaiti daily Al-Qabas yesterday, Shaalan repeated his previous assertions and accused the Iranian regime of, “interfering (in Iraq) with money, guns, and intelligence”. Iran Focus

Baghdad, Jan. 06 - Iraq’s Defence Minister Hazem Shaalan scolded Iran on the eve of the meeting by the Foreign Ministers of Iraq’s neighbouring countries in Amman and said that over a million Iranians had entered the country to pose as Iraqis in the upcoming January 30th elections.

In an interview with the Kuwaiti daily Al-Qabas yesterday, Shaalan repeated his previous assertions and accused the Iranian regime of, “interfering (in Iraq) with money, guns, and intelligence”.

The defence chief warned of the threat posed by a future Iranian-backed Iraqi government.

“It is estimated that the minimum that Iran wants is to dominate southern Iraq”, Shaalan said in response to a question on the extent of Iranian infiltration.

“If we go to Basra, we will not hear an Arabic accent, rather we will hear a Farsi accent, and this is also true of Najaf and Al-Kut provinces … This is a sign of significant meddling since it shows how open Iran’s borders are”, he said.

“The number of Shiite Iranians who have entered the country is more than a million”, he said, echoing remarks by Jordan’s King Abdullah II who estimated the same figure in December and said that Tehran is attempting to create a “Shiite Crescent from Iran to Syria and Lebanon”.

“We have intelligence indicating that Iran is sending fake families to Iraq, many of whom are based in Karbala, Najaf, Baghdad, Al-Amara, and Al-Kut; the documents are in our hands”, he added.

Shaalan said that the reason Iraq’s interim deputy-Prime Minister, Barham Saleh, had been dispatched to Iran was to warn Iran’s leaders to halt their actions.

He called for political pressure to be placed on both Iran and Syria to halt their activities in Iraq.

Iran’s Foreign Minister had boycotted today’s conference by Iraq’s neighbours in Amman as apparent rejection of the comments by senior Iraqi and Jordanian officials, accusing Tehran of interference in Iraq’s internal affairs. Shaalan said that he believed that outcome of the conference would be condemnation of the Iranian regime for its meddling and backing the insurgency in Iraq.

Shaalan insisted that the Iraqi people did not want to be involved in a conflict or war with Iran.

Over the past year, a string of Iraqi officials, including Iraq’s interim-Prime Minister, Ayad Allawi, and the interim President Ghazi Yawar, have accused Iran of meddling in Iraq. In a December 7 interview with the Washington Post, al-Yawar accused Iran of pouring “huge amounts of money” into fundamentalist Shiite parties hoping to create an Iraqi Islamic Republic.