|Rumsfeld: Iran has deployed elite forces in Iraq
SPECIAL TO WORLD TRIBUNE.COM
Wednesday, March 8, 2006
WASHINGTON — Iran has deployed elite forces to confront the U.S. military in Iraq in what has been termed a major escalation, the Pentagon says.
"They are currently putting people into Iraq to do things that are harmful to the future of Iraq," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said. "It is something that they, I think, will look back on as having been an error in judgment."
Officials said Iran has deployed members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in Iraq in early 2006. They said the IRGC operatives helped foment unrest and bolster Shi'ite militias in Iraq amid sectarian violence triggered by the bombing of the Golden Dome mosque in Samara on Feb. 22.
In a Pentagon briefing on Tuesday, Rumsfeld said Iran was deploying members of the Quds Brigade of the IRGC. The Quds Brigade has been regarded as the special operations forces and specialized in insurgencies abroad.
The brigade has been identified as the trainer and controller of Hizbullah in Lebanon. In February, National Intelligence director John Negroponte reported Iranian attempts to strike U.S. forces in Iraq.
"The Revolutionary Guard doesn't go milling around willy-nilly, one would think," Rumsfeld said. "Is it possible some more Iraqi civilians will be killed? Sure."
Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the reports of the Quds Brigade infiltration in Iraq marked the most recent of developments that stemmed from Iran. Pace said the military has assessed the number of IRGC fighters in Iraq, but would not elaborate.
Officials said the Quds Brigade was also believed to have brought weapons and relayed expertise for the assembly of improvised explosive devices. They said the Iranian-origin IEDs were shaped charges that could rip through U.S.-origin main battle tanks and armored personnel carriers.
"There have been some IEDs and some weapons that we believe are traceable back to Iran," Pace said.
Officials said the military has captured IEDs manufactured along the Iranian-Iraqi border in 2006. The IEDs were said to have been aimed at U.S. and British troops in a drive by Teheran to force an early coalition withdrawal from Iraq.
"We're working with the Iraqi government to enhance the capacity, the total numbers dedicated to border control, and also their capacity," Pace said