News On Iran & Its NeighboursIraqUS general says Iran backs Iraqi Shi'ites and Sunnis

US general says Iran backs Iraqi Shi’ites and Sunnis

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Reuters: Iranian intelligence forces are supporting Sunni insurgents in Iraq, in addition to Shi’ites, to destabilize the country and tie U.S. forces down, a U.S. general said on Thursday. By Kristin Roberts

WASHINGTON, April 19 (Reuters) – Iranian intelligence forces are supporting Sunni insurgents in Iraq, in addition to Shi’ites, to destabilize the country and tie U.S. forces down, a U.S. general said on Thursday.

The comments from Maj. Gen. Michael Barbero, deputy director for regional operations in the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, marked a further escalation in U.S. accusations against Iran’s Shi’ite government.

“Detainees in American custody have indicated that Iranian intelligence operatives have given support to Sunni insurgents and then we’ve discovered some munitions in Baghdad neighborhoods which are largely Sunni that were manufactured in Iran,” Barbero said. He did not give further details.

Asked why Iranian forces would support Sunnis, Barbero said they seek to “to destabilize Iraq, tie us down. Pretty much the same strategic goals they have by supporting the Shia insurgents.”

The United States has often said Iran provides weapons technology and training to Shi’ite militias in Iraq — charges that Tehran denies. But over the past week, the U.S. military has begun to accuse Iran of supporting Sunnis as well.

The U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad first said Iranian intelligence agents were giving “some support” to Iraqi Sunnis, but he did not describe the kind of support.

Then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the top U.S. general, said Gen. Peter Pace, said coalition forces in Afghanistan, to Iran’s east, had intercepted Iranian weapons meant for the Sunni Taliban.

On Thursday, Iran said the accusation of providing weapons to the Taliban was “baseless,” the semi-official Fars news agency reported.

Barbero said he did not know if Iranian intelligence agents were giving support to al Qaeda elements in Iraq as well.

U.S. forces in Iraq are holding five Iranians detained in a January raid. According to the United States, the Iranians are linked to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard networks that provide weapons to insurgents attacking U.S. troops. Iran says the five are diplomats and has demanded their release.

Charges that Iran is working against U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan by supporting insurgents have follow accusations by the United States and others that Tehran seeks nuclear weapons behind the cover of an energy program. Iran also denies that.

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