Sunday, October 02, 2005

Top U.S. military commander in Iraq: Iran trying to penetrate elements of the Iraqi government

From CNN's Wolf Blitzer's interview with the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, General George Casey on CNN's Late Edition aired October 2, 2005:

BLITZER: There's some concern, deep concern, that Iran is going to have an inordinate influence on what's going on in Iraq. Newsweek magazine this week says, "U.S. officials believe that Iranian intelligence agents have infiltrated the most senior levels of the Iraqi government."

Do you believe that?

CASEY: I believe they are trying to. I believe they are trying to exert influence in Iraq, particularly in southern Iraq, and they're using a variety of means to do it. Some of it's just financial support. Others do include trying to penetrate elements of the Iraqi government and security forces. Iran is not, in my view, is not necessarily being helpful to their neighbor, Iraq.

BLITZER: Is there an alliance of sorts between some Shia radicals and the Sunni insurgents?

CASEY: We have not seen that yet. And occasionally you get sporadic reports of one individual in one of those groups talking to an individual in those other groups. But I certainly would not characterize it as an alliance between those two groups...

In other news:

AP-Iran warns Israel against attacking nuclear sites:

Iran's parliament speaker warned Israel against any attempt to attack its nuclear facilities, and promised to "teach it a lesson" if it did.

"If Israel does something stupid and attacks our nuclear facilities like it did in Iraq, we promise to teach it a lesson it will never forget," Gholam Ali Hadad-Adel said after talks with his Syrian counterpart in Damascus.

He was referring to a 1981 strike by Israel against the Osiraq nuclear reactor in Iraq, which the Jewish state suspected of developing atomic weapons...

AFP-Iran's Rafsanjani given more powers:

Senior Iranian cleric Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, recently defeated in an attempted comeback as president, has been given more powers by the country's supreme leader.

The secretary of the Expediency Council, the top political arbitration body headed by Rafsanjani, told Iranian newspapers that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had given Rafsanjani "control over the application of the wider policies of the regime".

The official, Mohsen Rezai, said the role involved overseeing the government, parliament and judiciary in their application of a 20-year development plan drawn up by the Expediency Council.

Update-October 3rd: Russia urges Iran to continue cooperation with IAEA

MOSCOW, October 3 (Itar-Tass) - Moscow urged Tehran Monday to continue to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency, saying it "meets the interests of the normalization of the situation around the Iranian nuclear program."

The statement followed reports on Tehran's plans to withdraw from the additional protocol to the agreement on guarantees with the IAEA.

According to reports from Tehran, the Iranian parliament is finalizing a document which commits the government to terminating the effect of the additional protocol in Iran in case of a further buildup of pressure on the country, with the purpose of forcing it to give up the development of its own nuclear fuel cycle.

"We assume that Tehran's continuing cooperation with the IAEA with the purpose of the soonest answer to the remaining questions to Iran and its observation of the obligations it undertook on its own accord, including the additional protocol to the agreement on guarantees with the IAEA, meets the interests of the normalization of the situation around Iran's nuclear program," the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

The voluntary application of the provisions of this document by Iran, which it signed in 2003 but has not ratified yet is an extremely important measure of confidence; its rejection would not contribute to the settlement of the Iranian nuclear problem within the IAEA's framework, the Ministry said.