U.S. to show that Iran is interfering in Iraq

Khalilzad says he'll reveal details soon

January 25, 2007|By Borzou Daragahi | Borzou Daragahi,LOS ANGELES TIMES

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- The top U.S. envoy to Iraq said yesterday that he would soon reveal details that would show Iranian interference in Iraq, in the most recent diplomatic jousting between Washington and Tehran.

Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad told Western journalists that U.S. officials would provide details "in the coming days" about Iranian officials detained and interrogated in Baghdad and the Kurdish city of Irbil in recent weeks.

The U.S. military detained five Iranian diplomats Jan. 11 in Irbil and had detained others previously in Baghdad, touching off diplomatic squabbles and creating tensions with the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

The presentation, Khalilzad said, would include details about the identities of the detained Iranians and what they were doing in Iraq, as well as information about alleged contraband flowing across the Iran-Iraq border.

The presentation, he said, is a response to comments this week by Iranian Ambassador Hossein Kazemi-Qomi, who publicly challenged Americans to show "any shred of evidence that Iran is working to destabilize Iraq," according to Iranian news agencies.

Khalilzad said the United States would take up the challenge.

"I know the Iranian ambassador said the Americans do not have anything and if they have something, why don't they come up and share it," Khalilzad said. "We're going to oblige him."

Khalilzad alleged that Iranian diplomatic missions and offices in Iraq were providing diplomatic cover for members of the Revolutionary Guards' Qods Force, an elite intelligence and paramilitary organization that answers to Iran's supreme leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

One of those arrested in a pair of raids Dec. 21 in Baghdad and later released has been identified as a Qods Force director of operations, he said.

Iran's government includes ordinary state agencies such as ministries of foreign affairs and a presidency as well as powerful institutions that grew out of Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution. One of those organizations, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, functions like a parallel army and controls Iran's borders as well as foreign policy with neighboring countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

Khalilzad said it is time for Iran to change the people who conduct its Iraq relations.

"Iran has not adapted to the changed situation, in that it uses the security instrument as the channel, diplomatically," he said. "Many of the officials that represent Iran diplomatically are Qods Force operatives."

The United States has long alleged that Iranians have been funneling money, weapons and training for armed groups in Iran. Khalilzad said yesterday that Iranian elements associated with the Qods Force had infiltrated Iraq's political parties.

Borzou Daragahi writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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