Iraqi official: No conclusive proof Iran arming extremists

Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh says Iraq does not want trouble with any country, "especially Iran."

Iraq weapons 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Iraq weapons 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
A top Iraqi official said Sunday there was no "conclusive" evidence that Shi'ite extremists have been directly supplied with some Iranian arms as alleged by the United States. Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said Iraq does not want trouble with any country, "especially Iran." Al-Dabbagh was commenting on talks this week in Tehran between an Iraqi delegation and Iranian authorities aimed at halting suspected Iranian aid to some Shi'ite militias. Asked about reports that some rockets made in 2007 or 2008 and seized in raids against militias were directly supplied by Iran, al-Dabbagh replied: "There is no conclusive evidence." The US accuses Iran of financing and training Shi'ite militants in Iraq and of funneling lethal weapons into the country. Iranian officials have denied the allegations. Al-Dabbagh said Iraq wants friendly ties with Iran and stressed both countries share common interests. "We can't ignore or deny we are neighbors. We do not want to be pushed in a struggle with any country, especially Iran," he told a news conference. "We are fed up with past tensions that we have paid a costly price for because some parties have pushed Iraq (in the past) to take an aggressive attitude to Iran." But he also said a crackdown on Shi'ite militants will not stop, despite word that Iran will not restart security talks with the United States until the fighting is halted. Al-Dabbagh told reporters that the Iraqi government is "seizing every opportunity to establish good relations with Iran" but that it also has a responsibility to "implement the rule of law." "I think that the ongoing military operations in Iraq are an internal Iraqi affair and concern the Iraqi government and the coalition forces in Iraq," al-Dabbagh said. "No other party, except the Iraqis, has anything to do with this issue." A five-member Iraqi delegation returned Saturday from Tehran where they held meetings aimed at halting the suspected Iranian aid to militiamen. One of the meetings was with Gen. Ghassem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force, an elite unit of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps that has been accused of training and funneling weapons to Shi'ite extremists in Iraq. The Iraqi delegation was said to have carried documents and other material implicating the Quds Force in supplying weapons and training Shi'ite fighters. US military officials have said the evidence includes caches of weapons that have date stamps showing they were produced in Iran this year - including mortars, rockets and armor-piercing roadside bombs known as explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs. US-backed Iraqi forces are in the midst of a crackdown on the Mahdi Army militia of radical Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who is believed to be living in Iran. According to officials familiar with the meeting, the delegation received a frosty reception from Soleimani, who questioned the origin of the documents. The officials asked not to be named for security reasons. Iran's Fars news agency reported that Iranian negotiators told their Iraqi counterparts that as long as the US carried out attacks against the Mahdi Army in Sadr City, Iran would not restart talks with the Americans. US military spokesman Rear Adm. Patrick Driscoll told reporters that the "multi-national force endorses all dialogue." But he said Iranian involvement in destabilizing Iraq was mostly an "issue between the government of Iraq - a sovereign nation - and Iran to discuss and seek resolution."