Military limits details on alleged Iranian meddling in Iraq
For the second time in recent days, officials with the U.S. military command in Baghdad issued a news release about Iranian meddling in Iraq, after a period during which such accusations had somewhat quieted.
A release dated Sunday said that raids "continue to degrade Iranian-funded terrorist networks with the capture of a suspected key network finance manager and two associates" in Baghdad’s Adhamiyah district.
"Iraqi and Coalition forces are working together to prevent Iranian-backed terrorists from endangering the Iraqi people," the release read.
Days earlier, the military issued a release detailing the capture of a "suspected Iranian intelligence agent" in an operation north of Baghdad.
The man was a "commander of Iranian special operations in Iraq who is also believed to be involved in facilitating training of Iraqi militants at Islamic Republic Guard Corps-Quds Force training camps," the U.S. military alleged.
"The IRGC-QF is assessed to provide direct support to multiple extremist groups in Iraq, and is responsible for weapons being smuggled into Iraq from Iran."
Throughout the war, the U.S. military has accused Iran of trying to influence the war in Iraq — mainly by training Shiite militants and supplying explosives and training for a particularly lethal form of roadside bomb.
Iran has denied the charges.
Officially, there have been conflicting accounts of whether the Iranian attempts are being scaled back. In mid-December, the head of a U.S. military task force battling the "improvised explosive device" threat said he believed Iran was reducing the number of bombs it was sending to Iraq.
But other officials — along with the most recent quarterly report on the war by the Pentagon — have said that Iran was not ending its efforts.
Meanwhile, the Iraqi government this weekend said that it would expel several thousand Iranian opposition group members who have been in exile in Iraq for nearly 20 years.
The group members — known either as the People’s Mujaheddin Organization of Iran (PMOI) or the Mujaheddin-e Khalq (MEK) — fled Iran after the revolution in 1979. During the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, the group conducted raids in Iran.
Around 3,500 members of the group are now at Camp Ashraf, which has been guarded by U.S. troops since 2003.
"The Iraqi government is responsible for their security and it continues to implement its plans to shut down the camp and to either deport its population to their country or to a third country," the Iraqi government said in a statement. "Remaining in Iraq is not an option for them."
The group had previously been named a terrorist organization by the U.S. and the European Union.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, has built closer ties with Iran and has visited Tehran three times. He is to make another visit to Iran soon.