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Defence & Arms Last Updated: Apr 30th, 2007 - 13:26:52

How Iran's Revolutionaries Egged On Attacks in Iraq
By ELI LAKE, NY Sun 27/4/07
Apr 30, 2007, 13:26

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News of the meeting was disclosed Tuesday in an interview with Osman Ali Mustapha, a former Kurdish police officer who was recruited by Iranian intelligence in 2004 to spy on American bases and eventually help facilitate the assassination of a Kurdish police chief in Halabja.

The meeting between the Iranian general, Qassem Suleimani, and the leaders of Kurdish Sunni jihadist groups was confirmed by two Kurdish counterterrorism officials and by an American intelligence officer contacted after the interview.

Mr. Mustapha, whose story appeared in The New York Sun on Thursday, said the commander of the Quds Force, General Suleimani, "spoke on behalf of Ali Khamenei," Iran's supreme leader, at a summit in the Iranian city of Kermanshah. Mr. Mustapha continued, "He said, ‘Ali Khamenei told us that any group of Islamists, Tawhid and Jihad, Ansar al Sunna, any group can go across the border to Iraq." (Tawhid and Jihad is the original organization founded by the late Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.)

The account of Mr. Mustapha would settle the question of whether the commander of Iran's Quds Force was acting on his own. Yesterday in Washington, General Petraeus, the commander of multinational forces in Iraq, would not answer questions from journalists as to whether the support from the Quds Force for terrorism in Iraq was the official policy of the regime.

"With respect to how high does it go and, you know, what do they know and when did they know it, I honestly cannot — that is such a sensitive issue," he said.

The general continued, "At least I do not know of anything that specifically identifies how high it goes beyond the level of the Quds Force, Commander Suleimani. Beyond that, it is very difficult to tell — we know where he is in the overall chain of command; he certainly reports to the very top — but again, nothing that would absolutely indicate, again, how high the knowledge of this actually goes."

In his press conference yesterday, the general, fresh from briefing the House and Senate and receiving his fourth star, said a secret terror group known as the Qazali network was "provided substantial funding, training on Iranian soil, advanced explosive munitions and technologies as well as run of the mill arms and ammunition, in some cases advice and in some cases even a degree of direction."

He also said that coalition forces had received a 22-page memorandum on a computer that disclosed the details of a terror operation in Karbala that killed five American soldiers in January. He said the memo was an accounting of the operation to Iranian backers.

The Iranian role in Iraq is still hotly debated in Washington. As the New York Sun reported in a series of stories in January, the CIA and State Department have said the Iranian hand is less prevalent in Iraqi terrorism than the military commanders overseeing the war here.

A former deputy prime minister of Iraq and head of the country's deba'athification commission, Ahmad Chalabi, in an interview this month also cast doubt on the Iranian role in Iraq. Mr. Chalabi said that a good portion of the financing, particularly for al Qaeda, comes from protection fees local tribal leaders charge Iraqi and Arab contractors supplying American bases in order to deliver truck loads of equipment and food.

Asked Wednesday about the claim that General Suleimani met with the Sunni jihadist leaders in Kermanshah, an American intelligence official said, "We know about this meeting. Our information is based on second hand accounts."

The timing of the meeting, in April 2005, is important because less than six months later, in November of that year, America's ambassador in Iraq at the time, Zalmay Khalilzad invited his Iranian counterpart to begin open discussions on how to stabilize Iraq. The Iranians never followed through on the offer.

A similar offer was extended this week by Secretary of State Rice to the Iranians for meeting in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, next week for Iraq's neighbors to discuss ways to support the government led by Prime Minister Maliki. The Iranians have yet to say whether they will attend the meeting.

Source:Ocnus.net 2007

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