News On Iran & Its NeighboursIraqIran continues to support Shiites, U.S. report says

Iran continues to support Shiites, U.S. report says

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ImageWall Street Journal: A new U.S. military report accused Iran of continuing to funnel weapons and money to Shiite militants across Iraq and described Iran as the "greatest long-term threat to Iraqi security."

The Wall Street Journal

Weapons, Money Are Still Being Sent To Militias in Iraq

By YOCHI J. DREAZEN
June 24, 2008; Page A3

ImageWASHINGTON — A new U.S. military report accused Iran of continuing to funnel weapons and money to Shiite militants across Iraq and described Iran as the "greatest long-term threat to Iraqi security."

The report offered a generally upbeat assessment of Iraq's security and political situation, noting that violence there has fallen to the lowest levels in more than four years.

It also praised Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, for ordering the army to crack down on a powerful Shiite militia, a move credited with persuading Sunni lawmakers to rejoin Iraq's political process.

The quarterly assessment said security gains were fragile and that there was evidence that al Qaeda in Iraq, the Sunni group blamed for many of the bloodiest attacks against Iraqi civilians, had survived a recent U.S.-Iraqi onslaught in northern Iraq and begun reconstituting itself elsewhere in the country.

"Iraq is in a much better place than it was a year ago, across the board," Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a gathering of military and civilian officials shortly before the report's release. "We're not at the sustainable point yet. We're not at the irreversible point yet."

The report reserved its harshest words for Iran, accusing Tehran of breaking its promise to curtail the flow of Iranian armaments into Iraq. It said U.S. and Iraqi forces operating in Basra found large caches of Iranian-made weapons that had been manufactured earlier this year, after Iranian officials told their Iraqi counterparts that they would take measures to curb such shipments.

The report also noted that the number of attacks featuring a particularly lethal form of roadside bomb that the U.S. has linked to Iran reached a high in April, while the number of attacks involving Iranian-supplied rockets rose sharply over the same period.

Iran has been facilitating the "large-scale trafficking of arms, ammunition, and explosives," and helping to "fund, train, arm and guide numerous networks that conduct wide-scale insurgency operations," according to the report.

Iran has denied knowingly funneling weapons into Iraq or training the country's Shiite militants. Its government derides the U.S. accusations as propaganda designed to cover American failings in Iraq and provide a pretext for a military strike on Iran.

The Pentagon report is likely to fuel aggressive rhetoric about Iran from Democrats and Republicans. Presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama have each described Iran as the pre-eminent threat to the U.S. and threatened to strike Iran if Tehran fails to abandon its nuclear efforts.

Republican Sen. McCain has long been hawkish on Iran, while Democratic Sen. Obama has begun replacing his earlier talk of meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with muscular comments about doing "everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon."

The Pentagon report also accused Syria of contributing to Iraq's instability. Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said in an interview last year that Syria was taking steps to prevent suicide bombers and other militants from crossing into Iraq. The new report, by contrast, said that Syria was a "safe haven and transit point for the vast majority of foreign terrorist networks now operating in Iraq."

The Pentagon report was one of two government assessments to illustrate how much work remains to be done in Iraq despite some recent security and political gains there.

The military assessment said that the Iraqi government, awash in money because of soaring oil prices, was spending only a fraction of its capital budget, slowing reconstruction efforts across the country. It also cautioned that Iraq's provincial elections could be delayed until early next year, a serious blow to political reconciliation efforts there.

A separate assessment by the Government Accountability Office, a Congressional watchdog agency, noted that only 10% of Iraq's security forces were able to operate without U.S. military assistance.

The GAO report also raised questions about several of the major pieces of legislation that the Maliki government signed into law in recent months. Iraq passed a law designed to make it easier for former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party to rejoin the government, but the report noted that the government hasn't yet created the commission that would reinstate the onetime Baathists.

The GAO report pointed out that Iraq also hasn't yet passed legislation to manage the country's enormous oil resources, divvy up its tens of billions of dollars in annual oil revenue or disarm the country's many militias.

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