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Hyping Tehran's threat in Iraq, the Bush administration appears moving closer to war, writes Salah Hemeid
Displaying a small cache of munitions and weapons in a hall inside Baghdad's Green Zone Sunday, US army and intelligence officers offered what they claimed to be the most solid evidence yet of an Iranian role in the anti-American insurgency in Iraq. The briefing by officials, who refused to be identified by name, apparently was designed to lend credibility to allegations that Tehran is providing weapons to Shia militants in Iraq.
Some of the weapons, including sophisticated roadside bombs, are believed to have been responsible for the death of around 170 of the 3,400 US-led forces killed in Iraq since the end of combat operations in May 2003. The American officers also claimed that the weapons, manufactured in Iran and allegedly condoned by the "highest levels" of the Iranian government, were primarily intended for use against US troops. The officers said the displayed munitions were but a portion of what they believe the Iranians have been sending to insurgents.
Iran shrugged off the allegation. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the accusations were an attempt to hide Washington's own failures and an excuse to prolong the stay of American forces. "Such accusations cannot be relied upon or be presented as evidence," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohamed Ali Husseini. "The United States has a long history in fabricating evidence. Such charges are unacceptable," he told a press conference Monday.
Although Iran is widely believed to have been meddling in Iraq's affairs since the end of the war that removed Saddam Hussein from power, the American intelligence allegations seemed to be bizarre. On the one hand, the US has been fighting a Sunni insurgency in Iraq since 2003 that is deeply hostile to Iran. The insurgent groups have repeatedly denounced the Shia-Kurdish dominated Iraqi government as pawns of Iran. It is unlikely that Sunni fighters have received significant quantities of military equipment from Tehran. On the other hand, Shia fighters such as Al-Mahdi army, led by maverick cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr, have never been reported to use such weapons against American or British troops.