"We have picked up individuals who we believe are giving very sophisticated explosives technology to Shia insurgent groups who then use that technology to target and kill American soldiers," said Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns. "It's a very serious situation. And the message from the United States is, Iran should cease and desist."
The United States has been tracking Iranian involvement in in Iraqi insurgent attacks for about two years and has found increasing evidence that Iran has given assistance to Shiite in Southern Iraq, Burns said in an interview broadcast on Thursday.
"They have attacked British soldiers near Basra and they've now begun to mount those operations throughout the country -- at least in the Baghdad region as well," Burns said.
Washington officials have charged that Iran is providing Shiites with high-grade explosives capable of tearing through the armor on military vehicles. The Bush administration has repeatedly warned Iran against fueling violence in Iraq and US forces have detained a number of Iranian officials in raids over the past month.
Blasts hit Baghdad as deaths hit new high
Nine people were killed in bomb blasts in central Baghdad and mortars rained down on a Sunni neighborhood on Thursday as new figures showed that Iraqi civilians deaths edged up to another record in January.
The data from an Interior Ministry official, widely viewed as an indicative but only partial record of violent deaths, showed 1,971 people died from terrorism in Iraq in January, slightly up from the previous high of 1,930 deaths in December.
In what has become almost daily criticism of what Washington sees as Iranian interference in Iraq, a senior U.S. diplomat accused Tehran of supplying Iraqi insurgents with weapons technology used to kill American troops. In the latest violence in Baghdad, a man strapped with explosives blew himself up in a minibus in the religiously mixed Baghdad district of Karrada, shredding the vehicle and killing six people and wounding 12.
Shortly afterwards a car bomb in Rusafi, one of Baghdad's biggest shopping districts, killed three and wounded seven. Police said 10 mortar bombs crashed into Adhamiya, a mainly Sunni area in northwest Baghdad, killing one and wounding nine. The violence comes despite Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's announcement of a U.S.-backed crackdown on militants in the lawless capital. Thousands of U.S. troops have been sent to Baghdad help Iraqi security forces in what is seen as a final attempt to avert all-out sectarian civil war. U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns told U.S. National Public Radio in an interview for broadcast on Thursday that the United States had been tracking Iranian involvement in Iraqi insurgent attacks for about two years and has found increasing evidence that Iran has given assistance to Shiites in southern Iraq. We have picked up individuals who we believe are giving very sophisticated explosive technology to Shia insurgent groups who then use that technology to target and kill American soldiers, Burns said.
It's a very serious situation. And the message from the United States is, Iran should cease and desist. More than 3,000 U.S. troops have been killed in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003. A U.S. embassy official in Baghdad said U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad had promised to meet a challenge by Iran's ambassador to produce evidence of Iranian interference, but said the United States would do so according to its own timetable. Spokesman Lou Fintor declined to say when that would be, saying it would need to be handled in such a way as not to jeopardize U.S. intelligence gathering on Iran in future. Maliki, a Shiite Islamist, has vowed to tackle militants on both sides of the sectarian divide. The prime minister has been criticized in the past for failing to confront militias tied to parties within his government, including some with ties to Iran, as the violence continues to spiral out of control.