Reuters: The No. 2 U.S. commander in Iraq accused Iran on Sunday of stepping up support for anti-American Shi’ite militants in Iraq as U.S. policymakers await a crucial assessment of the violence-torn country. WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The No. 2 U.S. commander in Iraq accused Iran on Sunday of stepping up support for anti-American Shi’ite militants in Iraq as U.S. policymakers await a crucial assessment of the violence-torn country.
Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno said Iraqi Shi’ite groups have received more weapons, ammunition, funding and training from Iran in the past two months, while President George W. Bush’s “surge” strategy to quell violence in Baghdad has taken effect.
“It’s clear to me that over the past 30 to 60 days they have increased their support,” Odierno said on CNN’s “Late Edition.”
“They do it from providing weapons, ammunition — specifically mortars and explosively formed projectiles,” he said in a video link from Iraq.
“They are providing monetary support to some groups and they are conducting training within Iran of Iraqi extremists to come back here and fight the United States,” he added.
Iran denies meddling in Iraq and says the U.S. invasion in 2003 is the cause of sectarian strife.
But U.S. military officials have long accused Iran of supplying deadly roadside bombs to anti-U.S. militants.
U.S. intelligence agencies said in a declassified report last week that Iran has been intensifying its lethal support for select groups of Iraqi Shi’ite militants since January.
The report predicted the support would continue over the next year because of Tehran’s concerns about a Sunni reemergence in Iraq and U.S. efforts to limit Iranian influence.
In an interview with Reuters earlier this month, Odierno said he believed Iran was using its support for Shi’ite militants to influence the debate in Washington over whether to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq.
U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and top U.S. commander in Iraq Gen. David Petraeus are due next month to issue a report on military and political progress in Iraq that could determine the course of U.S. policy.