Controversy Flares over Iran Arms to Iraq

Semira N. Nikou

      Tensions are deepening between Washington and Tehran over new claims about Iranian military aid to Iraqi militias. The Obama administration charges that the Iranian arms have been increasingly used in attacks against U.S. troops. The U.S. holds the radical militias responsible for the deaths of 18 American soldiers since June1 —the highest monthly death toll in two years.
       New U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta repeatedly addressed Iran’s arming of Shiite militias in Iraq during his July 8-11 trip to Afghanistan and Iraq. The following are Panetta’s statements and Iran’s responses.
       "We're very concerned about Iran and weapons they're providing to extremists here in Iraq…And the reality is that we've seen the results of that — in June, we lost a hell of a lot of Americans ... and we cannot just simply stand back and allow this to continue to happen." June 11 statement in Iraq
       “We did lose an awful lot of troops last month, and we’re continuing to see attacks.  And a lot of this that we think can be tracked to Iran and their supplying of weapons to insurgents here who are conducting these kinds of attacks.  That raises a lot of concerns.” July 11 interview with NBC News
       “I think it's very important to let them know that, you know, we do not appreciate their support for terrorism, here or anyplace else in the world.  And they've been in engaging in basically not only equipping terrorists but supporting them…that's not just a responsibility that we have; I think it's a responsibility that the world has to send the signal to Iran that we're not going to tolerate that -- they can't just go around supporting terrorism in the world.  The world is going to respond to that kind of behavior.  If they want to be a member of the family of nations, they've got to act like it.” July 11 interview with NBC News
       "We're seeing more of those weapons going in from Iran, and they've really hurt us."  July 11 statement in Iraq
        “We cannot just simply stand back and allow this to continue to happen…I assure you that this is not something we’re just going to walk away from, we’re going to take this on, straight on.” June 11 statement in Iraq
        “I think the key right now is to go after them in Iraq and do what we can to prevent those weapons coming into Iraq and go after those groups that would make use of those weapons.  That’s what the principal focus has to be on.”  Afghanistan—July 10, 2011, in response to a question on how the United States can prevent Iran from selling weapons to Shiite extremists.
        “Obviously, whatever we can do diplomatically to send that message, we ought to do that as well.” July 10 statement in Afghanistan
Iranian response
Ramin Mehmanparast, Foreign ministry spokesman
        “It seems that the Americans do not have a favorable position in the region, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan, so they are making every effort to continue their presence in these countries at any cost.” July 11
Ali Akbar Salehi Foreign minister
        “[The United States] has been making such statements for 30 years. We don't consider the U.S. to be able to rule on what is right and what is wrong…The international community and nations do know that Iran usually meets its commitments." July 11
Hassan Danayeefar, Iran envoy to Iraq
        "These comments are repetitious and display the United States' trouble in earning the attention of the Iraqi parliament and government for extending its presence in Iraq." July 10
Parviz Sorouri, member of the parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission
        "The groups that wage terrorist attacks in Iraq today have all been created by the U.S…Evidence and documents display that most of the terrorist operations in Iraq have been carried out by the Al-Qaeda network which receives direct support and backup from the U.S.”
        "All the groups that are killing Muslim people in Iraq are born by the US and intend to portray Iraq as insecure (country)." July 12 interview with the semi-official Fars News Agency