American military officials say they are closely watching apparent efforts by Iran to influence the formation of the post-Saddam Hussein government in Iraq.
Lieutenant General David McKiernan told reporters via satellite link from Baghdad there are several competing interests inside Iraq vying for influence over the process that will select a new Iraqi government.
Responding to news reports that Iranian agents are operating inside some Iraqi cities to promote friendly relations with Muslim Shiite clerics, General McKiernan said coalition forces are monitoring various factions that are jockeying for political influence.
"Right now the Shiite and any Iranian-influenced Shiite actions are not an overt threat to coalition forces," said General McKiernan. "But we are watching all these competing interests. If truth be known this is probably a little bit of democracy in process right now here in Iraq."
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said earlier this week that an Iranian model of government would not be consistent with the democratic principles the United States believes should be adopted by an emerging Iraqi government.