Senior Iranian leaders know about the operations of Iran's Qods Force in fomenting violence in Iraq, the US military said yesterday, in some of the most direct accusations yet against Teheran over the chaos in Iraq.
Military spokesman Brigadier-General Kevin Bergner said the Qods Force was also using the Iranian-backed Lebanese Shi'ite militia group Hezbollah to sponsor violence in Iraq.
In fresh violence, the US military said four US soldiers and one Marine were killed in various attacks in Iraq on Sunday, marking a bloody start to the month for American forces.
Washington has long accused the Qods Force of arming and training Shi'ite militants who attack US and Iraqi soldiers but previously it said it was not clear whether these actions were carried out with the full knowledge of Iran's leadership.
Shi'ite Iran denies involvement in violence in Iraq and blames the US-led invasion in 2003 for the bloodshed.
"Our intelligence reveals that senior leadership in Iran is aware of this activity," Bergner told a news conference.
"We also understand that senior Iraqi leaders have expressed their concerns to the Iranian government about the activities."
Iran does not officially acknowledge the existence of the Qods Force. Military experts and some exiled Iranians say it is a wing of Iran's ideologically driven Revolutionary Guards that operates abroad. They say it reports directly to Iran's top authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The Revolutionary Guards have a separate command structure to Iran's regular military.
Bergner said the United States had discovered the existence of three small camps near Teheran where Iraqi Shi'ite militants were trained by Qods Force and Hezbollah operatives. Between 20-60 militants were trained at any given time, he said.
Source: China Daily/agencies