The chief U.S. military spokesman in Iraq says Iranian operatives continue to provide high-powered explosives and training to Iraqi insurgents, despite repeated requests by top U.S. officials for Iran to stop the practice. VOA's Al Pessin reports from the Pentagon.
Major General William Caldwell told reporters in Baghdad Iraqi insurgents are being trained in Iran by people working for that country's intelligence service. He said the training focuses on how to make and use high-powered roadside bombs called Explosively Formed Projectiles or Penetrators.
When the bombs explode they shoot out a flying ball of molten metal that is capable of piercing armored vehicles.
"We know that they are being in fact manufactured and smuggled into this country, and we know that training does go on in Iran for people to learn how to assemble them and how to employ them," he said. "We know that training has gone on as recently as this past month, from detainees debriefs."
Roadside bombs are the biggest killer of U.S. troops in Iraq, but relatively few of the deaths have been caused by the Explosively Formed Penetrators, because there have been relatively few of the devices available to the Iraqi insurgents. But the Associated Press reports one Iraqi militant group, the Shi'ite Mahdi Army, claims it now has a stockpile of the bombs, and that 4,000 of its fighters have been trained in Iran.
And General Caldwell says the Iranian training for Iraqi insurgents goes beyond the roadside bombs.
"We do know they receive also training on general tactics in terms of how to take and employ and work what we call a more complex kind of attack where we see multiple types of engagements being used from an explosion to small arms fire to being done in multiple places," he added.
The U.S. military spokesman said he has evidence that people working for Iranian intelligence are also training Iraqi fighters inside Iraq, and providing them with money and weapons. General Caldwell called the people "surrogates," implying they may not officially be Iranian government employees.
At his briefing, the general also displayed mortar rounds and rocket-propelled grenades he said were made in Iran, which U.S. forces found in Baghdad.
He called for Iran to stop interfering in Iraqi affairs and to respect the country's sovereignty.
Other U.S. military spokesmen claimed earlier this year that Iran's government was responsible for activities supporting the Iraqi insurgency, but officials later backed off that claim, saying they could not confirm that any senior Iranian officials were involved. But U.S. officials say Iranian leaders certainly know about the effort, and should take steps to stop it.