The Militant (logo)  
   Vol. 67/No. 40           November 17, 2003  
Washington: Tehran is
destabilizing occupation of Iraq
(front page)
WASHINGTON, D.C.—In a television interview November 2, U.S. defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld was asked by a reporter: “How active is Iran in trying to destabilize our efforts?” in reference to the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq. “Oh—active,” Rumsfeld responded.

“There are foreign terrorists in that country, like the Ansar al-Islam, who have come back in from Iran and are trying to kill people,” Rumsfeld stated.

In an interview on ABC’s “This Week” TV news program later that morning, Rumsfeld was asked what price Washing ton would make the governments of Iran and Syria pay for “interfering” in Iraq with “the influx of foreign terrorists.” Rumsfeld responded: “We’ve let them know that we’re notably unhappy about the fact that terrorists come across their borders into Iraq and further complicate the problem.”

He added: “We know in some instances they have condoned it…. Take the terrorist organization Ansar al-Islam. It was in Iraq. Saddam Hussein knew it was in Iraq. It was functioning. It left when we invaded Iraq, went to Iran, found a hospitable environment, apparently, and now has returned to Iraq…. It would have been better if they had not found a hospitable environment in Iran.”

These comments are part of a campaign by Washington to blame the governments of Iran and Syria for aiding “terrorists” supposedly coming into Iraq from these countries to attack U.S. troops.

The statements came shortly after testimony prepared for the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee by Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, which was made public here October 28. Armitage said the White House was prepared to resume limited contacts with Tehran but relations would not improve until the Iranian government shared intelligence on al Qaeda.

Tehran announced next day it would not share intelligence with Washington or turn over or identify al Qaeda members the White House has charged that the Iranian government is harboring. “We don’t have relations with American security services so there is no reason to do anything on this issue,” said Abdollah Ramazanzadeh, a Tehran spokesman. To the contrary, he added, Tehran was waiting for Washington to take “practical steps” to improve relations. “It is not possible to threaten a country, to block its assets, to accuse it and then want talks,” he said. He reiterated Tehran’s demand that Washington release Iranian assets it froze after the 1979 revolution that toppled the U.S.-backed shah.

In his 2002 State of the Union address, U.S. president George Bush grouped Iran with Iraq and north Korea as part of an “axis of evil.” Since then, Washington has led an international campaign to brand Iran in violation of the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty and to stop Tehran from developing nuclear weapons.

U.S. and Iranian government officials held several meetings in Geneva before and after the U.S.-led war against the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein. Washington ended the talks following the bombing of a residential compound in Saudi Arabia on May 12 in which 35 people were killed, including nine from the United States. The Bush administration has charged that the bombings were planned by al Qaeda members who are now in Iran. Tehran has maintained that these al Qaeda members it holds in custody could not have been involved in that attack because they were detained beforehand.

Washington had demanded that Iran identify and turn over al Qaeda members within its borders. In October Tehran identified 225 such suspects it said had been extradited to their countries of origin. In supplying the names to the UN Security Council, Iranian diplomats emphasized that Tehran had been a long-time opponent of the Taliban government in Afghanistan and of al Qaeda.

An Iranian foreign ministry spokesperson, according to the BBC, said al Qaeda members in custody had committed offenses in Iran and would be tried in Iranian courts. Among those Washington has charged that Iran is harboring are three of the group’s supposed top leaders, including Osama bin Laden’s son Saad.  
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