AFP: The US ambassador to Iraq on Thurday accused Iran and Syria of using “Iraqis as cannon fodder” and of fuelling a wave of violence designed to divide Iraq and leave it powerless. TIKRIT, Iraq, Oct 12, 2006 (AFP) – The US ambassador to Iraq on Thurday accused Iran and Syria of using “Iraqis as cannon fodder” and of fuelling a wave of violence designed to divide Iraq and leave it powerless.
“There is another challenge facing Iraqis: preventing regional powers who want Iraq to fail,” said Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, speaking in the northern town of Tikrit at the inauguration of a reconstruction plan.
“Two countries are particularly playing a negative role: the Iranian and Syrian regimes. These regimes are supporting groups who are killing Iraqis,” he said, talking in an unusually blunt way about the alleged interference.
“Their objective is to use Iraqis as cannon fodder in their plan to keep Iraqis divided and Iraq weak. Iraqis must unite against their enemies and against sectarianism and the killing of the innocent,” he said.
Iraq is in the grip of a mounting wave of sectarian violence between armed Sunni and Shiite factions, while Islamist and nationalist insurgents attack US-led coalition forces and the country’s US-backed coalition government.
US officials — including Khalilzad — have often accused Tehran and Damascus of fuelling the unrest, but rarely in such strong terms.
Iran is accused of arming and training the Shiite militia groups that wield great power in east Baghdad and much of the south of the country, while Syria is said to allow Islamist rebels to infiltrate Iraq across its border.
More than 100 Iraqis are killed every day in the violence raging around the country, despite the continuing presence of 142,000 US troops, three-and-a-half years after the fall of former dictator Saddam Hussein.
Recently, US military commanders have become more explicit in their criticisms of Iran, with whom Washington is also at loggerheads over its alleged quest to build a nuclear weapon, which Tehran denies.
Iran has likewise denied the charge it has smuggled factory-built tank-busting roadside mines to Shiite militias, who have used such weapons with great success against US and British armoured vehicles in Iraq.
These devastating “shaped charges” and “explosively formed projectiles” are the signature weapon of Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militia which has open ties with both Syria and Iran.
And this week, in an interview with the BBC, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said that, while he supported the concept of “resistance” against occupiers, he had given no direct military aid to the Iraqi insurgency.