BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) – The U.S. ambassador said Wednesday that one of the Iranians detained by U.S. forces in Iraq during two raids over the past month was the director of operations for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Quds faction, the organization responsible for
funding and arming Iraqi militants.
Zalmay Khalilzad said the recent raids were part of a “new strategy” to “go after their networks that are active here.”
At least eight Iranians have been detained in Iraq recently, including two diplomats in a Dec. 21 roundup of a group of 10 suspects. The diplomats were interrogated and released to Iranian officials eight days later.
Six others were captured Jan. 11 at an Iranian liaison office in the northern city of Irbil. One was released and five are still believed in U.S. custody.
“Some of those we’ve arrested are Quds Force operatives. One of them was director of operations for the Quds Force” who was in the country without the knowledge of Iraqi security officials, he said.
The ambassador, who has been nominated by President Bush as Washington’s envoy to the United Nations, said U.S. forces were detaining Iranians because “we’ve had a good understanding of the equipment that comes across (the border), particularly about the EFPs
(explosively formed projectiles).” Those are high-tech roadside bombs capable of piercing armor on U.S. vehicles.
“And (we’re) also concerned about the training and the money and the influence” by Iran inside Iraq.
He said Iran had set its sites on becoming the dominant power in the Middle East and was taking advantage of Iraq’s “weakened state” and “throwing its weight around.”
Khalilzad said Iranian agents were working with “a variety of groups, and there are groups that they fund and control, in my judgment, directly.”
The ambassador said U.S. officials soon would outline in detail the activities of the arrested Iranians, as demanded by Tehran’s ambassador in Baghdad.
“Since he was good enough to say we should present what we have, we will be helpful and try to do that – where we found them, what they were doing, what is coming from Iran across the border. … We will have something for you in the coming days,” he said.