AFP – Iran is supporting three Shiite extremist groups in Iraq that have been attempting to attack US bases, General Ray Odierno, the top US commander in Iraq, said Wednesday.
For the past four years the US military has blamed Iran for supporting violent anti-US groups operating in Iraq, but has been unable to establish a clear link with the government in Tehran.
“The Iranians… continue to fund, train and provide weapons and ammunition to Shiite extremist groups,” Odierno told reporters here.
The Iranians have “gone to a more sophisticated program with a smaller set of extremists” and are now focusing on three groups, which he identified as Ketaib Hezbollah, Asaib Ahl al-Haq (League of the Righteous), and the Promise Day Brigade.
“It’s very difficult to say if the extremist groups are directly connected to the Iranian government,” he said.
“But we do know that many of them live in Iran, many of them get trained in Iran, and many of them get weapons from Iran,” he said.
Odierno said US officials believe that Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ elite Quds Force is involved in training and funding the groups.
Ketaib Hezbollah detonated a truck loaded with explosives at a joint US-Iraqi patrol post in 2007, Odierno said, but failed in two attempts earlier this year at a similar bombing.
On July 13 Odierno detailed a plot in which he said Ketaib Hezbollah planned an attack in recent weeks, prompting the US army to increase its security measures.
The groups are targeting US bases in Iraq that are not withdrawing soldiers, and will not influence the pace of the US withdrawal from Iraq, he said.
According to US polls cited by Odierno, 85 percent of Iraqis reject Iranian interference in Iraqi politics.
US combat troops are set to leave Iraq by September 1, but a 50,000-strong training and advisory force will remain until December 2011.