News On Iran & Its NeighboursIraqUS envoy accuses Iran of training Iraqi militias

US envoy accuses Iran of training Iraqi militias

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Reuters: The American ambassador to Iraq, taking an unusually blunt line with Iran, accused Iraq’s eastern neighbour on Monday of giving training and weapons to militias operating in Iraq. “Iran has another policy as well: to work with militias, provide training and provide weapons to extremist groups, direct and indirectly,” Zalmay Khalilzad told reporters after a news conference. BAGHDAD, Feb 20 (Reuters) – The American ambassador to Iraq, taking an unusually blunt line with Iran, accused Iraq’s eastern neighbour on Monday of giving training and weapons to militias operating in Iraq. “Iran has another policy as well: to work with militias, provide training and provide weapons to extremist groups, direct and indirectly,” Zalmay Khalilzad told reporters after a news conference.

Tehran is playing a “negative role” in Iraq, Khalilzad said, adding that the Iranian foreign minister’s recent demand that Britain pull its troops out of the southern Iraqi city of Basra was “uncalled-for interference.”

“Basra is Iraqi territory the last time I checked the map. I think that was uncalled-for interference by Iran,” he said.

In the chaos that followed the U.S. overthrow of Saddam Hussein, militias tied to political parties and ethnic and sectarian groups have thrived in Iraq, stoking sectarian tension.

Some leaders of the Shi’ite Muslim majority now in power in Iraq have close links with predominantly Shi’ite Iran, which sheltered them during Saddam’s rule and helped the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) found a formidable militia.

U.S. officials have in the past accused Iran of encouraging radicalism among Iraqi Shi’ites and allowing dangerous weaponry to pass into Iraq — charges rejected by Iran’s leaders.

Khalilzad said Iran was trying to divert attention from international concern over its nuclear programme. Western powers believe Iran is trying to produce nuclear weapons under cover of a peaceful energy programme, though Tehran denies this.

Sunni Muslims, a minority in Iraq, accuse the Shi’ite-led government of condoning death squads operating inside the Interior Ministry, and say they are run by SCIRI, a partner in the largest bloc in parliament.

In his comments to reporters, Khalilzad did not name any particular militia he said Iran was training.

He warned Iraqi leaders earlier that Washington would not tolerate sectarianism or militias in the new government and its security forces.

“The ministers of interior, defence, national intelligence, the national security adviser have to be people who are non- sectarian, broadly acceptable, non-militia-related that will work for all Iraqis,” he told a news conference.

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