US Army: Hizbullah trains Iraqi gunmen in Iran

Iran cancels Iraq security talks as US escalates accusations of Iranian meddling in the country.

Hizbullah march 224.88 (photo credit: )
Hizbullah march 224.88
(photo credit: )
Iran called off the next round of Iraq security talks with the United States until it stops a crackdown on Shi'ite gunmen even as the US military on Monday escalated its accusations of Iranian meddling in Iraq, saying detainees have described being trained by Hizbullah in camps outside Teheran. The latest flare-up came as US and Iraqi military forces battled for the sixth week against Shi'ite terrorists they say are armed and trained by Iran and its Quds Force, an elite unit of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps that has been accused of training and funneling weapons to Shi'ite gunmen in Iraq. Shi'ite prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has been determined to stamp out the armed gangs and his spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said Sunday that the crackdown would continue even if Iran pulled out of the talks. In Teheran, Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said talks could not be held under such conditions. "We believe the talks will not be held given the current situation (in Iraq)," Hosseini told reporters. His comment was the first official confirmation that Iran has decided to suspend the talks. Iran and the US have held three rounds of ambassador level talks on security in Iraq since last May. "What we are witnessing is open and extensive bombing of the Iraqi nation, while the main goal of talks with the American side would have been security and peace in Iraq," Hosseini said. "It is a matter of doubt that the US is pursuing a solution for the crisis, which was caused by them." Iraq has said it will set up a committee to investigate US allegations of Iranian involvement in Iraqi insurgent atatcks and has sought to keep a balance between the two countries. A five-member Iraqi delegation was sent to Teheran last week to discuss the US allegations. They met with Gen. Ghassem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force, but no clear details emerged from the meeting. Details have not been released, but Hosseini said in Iran that "Teheran has always said that it supports the Iraqi government and legal action against illegal armed groups who commit crimes there." In Baghdad, the US military said that Iraqi Shi'ite gunmen were being trained by Hizbullah at camps near Teheran operated by the Quds Force. The group is also known as the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps-Quds Force, or IRGC-QF. Al-Quds is the Arabic name for Jerusalem. The Quds Force is believed to operate overseas, helping to create Hizbullah in 1982 in Lebanon and to arm Bosnian Muslims during the Balkan wars. "We have multiple detainees who state Lebanese Hizbullah are providing training to Iraqis in Iranian IRGC-QF training camps near Teheran," Air Force Col. Donald Bacon, a US military spokesman in Baghdad, told The Associated Press. The first reports of Hizbullah training emerged in March 2007, when US forces captured Qais Khazali, the senior Special Groups leader for Iraq, and Ali Mussa Daqduq, a senior Lebanese Hezbollah commander captured along with him. The arrests took place in the Shi'ite holy city of Karbala. Lebanese trainers would speak Arabic and be able to better communicate with their fellow Arabs from Iraq. Most Iranians speak Farsi and are Persian. "Ali Mussa Daqduq confirmed Lebanese Hizbullah were providing training to Iraqi Special Group members in Iran and that his role was to assess the quality of training and make recommendations on how the training could be improved. In this role, he traveled to Iraq on four occasions and was captured on his fourth trip," Bacon told The AP in an e-mail. Since then, Bacon said "we have captured other Iraqis who have discussed their training in Iran and who state many of their instructors were Lebanese Hizbullah." Also Monday, Lebanon's top prosecutor began investigating allegations that Hizbullah set up surveillance cameras near the Beirut airport to monitor the comings and goings of anti-Syrian Lebanese politicians and foreign dignitaries. The allegations further stoked political tensions in the country. Judicial officials said Prosecutor General Saeed Mirza ordered the investigation after receiving documents from the country's defense and interior ministers about Hizbullah's alleged placement of the cameras just outside the airport in the Lebanese capital. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to talk to the media. They also said military prosecutor Sami Sader was questioning witnesses in the case.