BAGHDAD (Reuters) - About 50 members of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards are believed to be training Shi’ite militias in the use of mortars and rockets in southern Iraq, the general commanding U.S. troops in the area said on Sunday.
“We are concerned primarily about the training of Shi’ite extremists. We think there are about 50 members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards,” Major-General Rick Lynch, commander of U.S. forces south of Baghdad, told reporters.
Lynch said there had been an increase in “indirect fire attacks” on U.S. forces in his area of command and that rocket attacks were becoming “more accurate and more effective”.
Washington has accused Shi’ite Muslim Iran of fomenting violence in Iraq through its support for Shi’ite militias, especially in southern Iraq.
The U.S. military also accuses Iran of supplying deadly roadside bombs, the biggest killers of U.S. troops in Iraq, to Iraqi militias and has displayed caches of weapons it says are from Iran.
Iran denies the charges and blames the 2003 U.S.-led invasion for the sectarian violence between majority Shi’ites and minority Sunni Arabs that has killed tens of thousands.
The U.S. military believes the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds force is behind the shipping of weapons into Iraq, including armor-piercing “explosively formed penetrators”.
At a second round of landmark U.S.-Iran talks on Iraqi security in July, U.S. ambassador Ryan Crocker accused Iran of stepping up its support for militias in Iraq.
Crocker also warned Tehran that its Quds operatives would not be safe in Iraq.