News On Iran & Its NeighboursIraqU.S. delays report on Iran arms

U.S. delays report on Iran arms

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ImageWall Street Journal: The U.S. military, in a shift, has postponed the release of a report detailing allegations of Iranian support for Iraqi insurgents, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Wall Street Journal

By YOCHI J. DREAZEN
May 21, 2008

ImageWASHINGTON — The U.S. military, in a shift, has postponed the release of a report detailing allegations of Iranian support for Iraqi insurgents, according to people familiar with the matter.

The military had initially planned to publicize the report several weeks ago but instead turned the dossier over to the Iraqi government, these people said. The Iraqis are using the information to pressure Tehran to curb the flow of Iranian weaponry and explosives into Iraq, these people said.

The classified briefing includes photographs of Iranian mortars, rockets and explosives with date stamps indicating they were manufactured within the past few months, long after Iran said it would halt weapons shipments to Iraq, according to officials who have seen it.

The dossier also contains written accounts of interrogation sessions with captured Shiite militants who contend that Iraqi fighters are being trained at a facility near Tehran run by the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, the officials said.

The military said the report eventually would be made public but refused to say when it would be released.

"The timing of the brief…on Iranian interference has yet to be nailed down, but we anticipate briefing sometime in the future," said Rear Adm. Patrick Driscoll. Adm. Driscoll said there were "lots of reasons" for the delay but declined further comment.

Another military official said in an interview that the report could be delayed significantly, noting that it was "in the hands of the [Iraqi central government]."

Ali al-Dabbagh, a spokesman for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, said he wouldn't confirm or deny whether the report had been given to Iraqi officials because of the sensitive nature of the dossier. Mr. Dabbagh did say Iraq recently had received new U.S. evidence about Iranian involvement in Iraq.

"We want to limit the Iranian interference, and we can't deny its existence," he said.

The delay comes at a sensitive moment in the U.S. relationship with Iran. Senior administration officials and military officers have been hardening their rhetoric and have begun describing Iranian-backed Shiite militias, as opposed to Sunni groups such as al Qaeda in Iraq, as the biggest threat to Iraq's stability.

Testifying before Congress Tuesday, Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that "irresponsible actions" by Iran's Revolutionary Guards "directly jeopardize" peace in Iraq.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, appearing at the same hearing, said it was an "open question" whether diplomatic engagement with Iran would be productive while the country's hard-line president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, remained in power.

The Iraqi government has been caught in the middle of the tensions between the U.S. and Iran. Mr. Maliki is a Shiite with close ties to Iran, Iraq's biggest trading partner and one of the only neighboring countries with full diplomatic ties with Baghdad.

Mr. Maliki's government is largely kept in power by the U.S. military, but the prime minister and his close political allies have been reluctant to join in the American criticism of Iran or explicitly accuse Tehran of funneling weapons, money and other support to Shiite militants within Iraq.

In recent weeks, however, Iraqi officials have begun to move closer to the U.S. position. Earlier this month, Mr. Maliki sent a five-man delegation to Tehran to present the new U.S. evidence to the Iranians and demand that Tehran honor its commitments to prevent its weaponry from entering Iraq.

A U.S. official in Baghdad said the Iraqi delegation met with the head of Iran's Quds Force and other senior Iranian officials but said he was unsure what, if any, new commitments the Iraqis received.

–Munaf Ammar in Baghdad contributed to this article.

Write to Yochi J. Dreazen at [email protected]

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