August 23, 2006
WASHINGTON - A senior US military official said there is "clear evidence" that Iran is funding, training and arming Shiite extremists to destabilize Iraq.
"I think it is irrefutable that Iran is responsible for training, funding and equipping some of these Shia extremist groups, and also providing advanced IED technology," said Brigadier General Michael Barbero, using the acronym for "improvised explosive devices."
"And there is clear evidence of that," he added at a Pentagon press conference.
His comments came the same day that Iran turned aside demands by the international community that it halt uranium enrichment as required by a UN Security Council resolution, offering "serious negotiations" instead.
Barbero, deputy operations director of the joint staff, said he had seen no reports of "direct contact" involving Iranian paramilitary or intelligence forces.
But he said he had seen "reports of their involvement and presence there as trainers to train these terrorists and Shia extremist groups."
How to respond to destabilizing Iranian activity was a question for policymakers, Barbero said.
But he said neutralizing the Shiite extremist groups in Iraq "will go a long way to removing their direct influence into the affairs of the sovereign country of Iraq."
In recent weeks, US military forces have stepped up raids against Shiite and Sunni extremist groups in Baghdad in an effort to tamp down a wave of violence that has raised fears of civil war.
The violence last month forced the United States to extend the tours of nearly 4,000 troops, preventing a reduction in the size of the 133,000-strong US force.
"Our intent is to draw down the number of troops," Barbero said. "And, as I said, that will be driven by the conditions on the ground and the requests from the commanders on the ground."