Bloomberg: Iran provided extensive aid to Iraqi militias, such as training an operative who kidnapped American soldiers, according to classified U.S. military documents published yesterday.
By Viola Gienger and Tony Capaccio
Oct. 23 (Bloomberg) — Iran provided extensive aid to Iraqi militias, such as training an operative who kidnapped American soldiers, according to classified U.S. military documents published yesterday.
Almost 400,000 documents obtained by WikiLeaks.org include field reports from 2004 through 2009 describing Iranian backing for Iraqi Shiite militia. The papers provide details supporting warnings by U.S. officials of Iranian interference in Iraq.
In August 2005, for example, then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said that “weapons clearly, unambiguously from Iran” had been found in Iraq, and that Iran’s failure to prevent their transport across the border was “unhelpful.” In March 2006 Rumsfeld accused Iran of sending the Revolutionary Guards, an elite military unit, into Iraq to foment violence.
The documents, released in advance to the New York Times, the Guardian of the U.K., Germany’s Der Spiegel and Le Monde of France, were posted on the WikiLeaks website last night.
WikiLeaks receives confidential material that governments and businesses want to keep secret and posts the information on the Internet “so readers and historians alike can see evidence of the truth,” the group says on its website. Attempts to reach WikiLeaks ahead of its planned news conference in London this morning were unsuccessful.
In addition to accounts involving Iran, the records also document cases of U.S. military officials failing to investigate hundreds of reports of abuse, torture, rape and murders by Iraqi security forces, according to the Guardian. In one case, U.S. authorities were given a video of Iraqi soldiers executing a bound detainee.
The U.S. Defense Department “strongly” condemned the unauthorized release of the documents, spokesman Geoff Morrell said in an e-mailed statement yesterday. Morrell declined to comment on the documents themselves, other than to call them initial, raw observations by tactical units.
The documents indicate that as far back as 2005, Iran armed and trained squads to kill senior Iraqi politicians and to undermine U.S. and British military operations, the Guardian reported.
One document from December 2006, posted on the New York Times website, describes a plan by a Shiite militia commander to kidnap U.S. soldiers in Baghdad in late 2006 or early 2007. For the mission, the commander tapped a subordinate who had been trained by Lebanese Hezbollah operatives in Qom, Iran, under the supervision of the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guards, according to the document.
The next month, four American soldiers were abducted and killed before the U.S. military could free them, and the subordinate’s fingerprints were found at the scene, the Times said. The U.S. tracked down and killed the subordinate four months later.
In a separate incident in September 2006, American soldiers “well inside Iraqi territory” came under fire from Iranians after a U.S. soldier shot and killed an Iranian soldier who had aimed a rocket-propelled grenade launcher at the platoon, according to a document posted on the Times website. The platoon had been working with Iraqi troops near the border to search for “key infiltration routes” into the country, the document said.
Army General George Casey, then the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, said in June 2006 that Iran was providing weapons and training to Shiite extremist groups in Iraq who were attacking U.S. troops and Iraqi security forces.
“We are quite confident that the Iranians, through their covert special operations forces, are providing weapons and training,” Casey said.
The WikiLeaks documents also cite detainee testimony, a captured militant’s diary and discovered weapons caches in demonstrating how Iran provided Iraqi militias with weapons such as rockets and lethal roadside bombs, the Times said.
The documents also indicate that the number of Iraqi civilians killed was greater than the U.S. revealed during the Bush administration, according to the Times. While the documents don’t give a precise count, they list more than 100,000 deaths over five years ending in 2009, with some incidents counted twice or inconsistently, the newspaper said.
Mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners by their own forces appeared to be even more graphic than the accounts of abuse by the U.S. military at the Abu Ghraib prison, the Times said. The documents contain references to at least six prisoners who died in Iraqi custody during the six years covered as well as hundreds of accounts of beatings, burnings and lashings.
Release of the material is a “hugely irresponsible step on the part of WikiLeaks,” Ryan Crocker, a former U.S. ambassador to Iraq, told a forum at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington yesterday.
“I’d really be worried if, as looks to be the case, you have Iraqi political figures named in a context or a connection that can make them politically and physically vulnerable to their adversaries,” said Crocker, who is now dean of the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University in College Station.
“That just has an utterly chilling effect on the willingness of political figures to talk to us, not just in Iraq but anywhere in the world,” Crocker said.