AFP: The White House on Thursday unapologetically defended a US raid in the northern Iraqi city of Arbil that has sparked a diplomatic feud between Washington and Tehran.
FORT BENNING, Georgia, Jan 11, 2007 (AFP) – The White House on Thursday unapologetically defended a US raid in the northern Iraqi city of Arbil that has sparked a diplomatic feud between Washington and Tehran.
US national security spokesman Gordon Johndroe declined to comment specifically on the operation, in which US forces arrested six people described by Iraqi and Iranian officials as the staff at an Iranian consulate.
But the United States has made it clear that “if we get information that is actionable that the Iranians are interfering with Iraq, with Iraqis, or in any way going to harm Americans that we’re going to take action,” said Johndroe.
Johndroe pointed to US President George W. Bush’s warning, in a speech late Wednesday, that the United States would “seek and destroy” suspected Iranian and Syrian networks aiding those who target US troops in Iraq.
“The president made it clear last night that we will not tolerate outside interference in Iraq. And that’s what the Iranians are up to,” said Johndroe.
Tehran and the regional government of Iraqi Kurdistan accused US troops of raiding a diplomatic building — which should have been protected under international laws — and demanded that the detainees be released.
Tehran angrily condemned the operation and accused arch enemy Washington of violating international law and stirring up tension among Iraq’s neighbors.
But in Washington, a Pentagon spokesman denied that the building was a consulate and insisted the captives are “suspected of being closely tied to activities targeting Iraq and coalition forces.”