BAGHDAD (Reuters) - U.S. officials said on Wednesday that Iranian meddling in Iraq had continued despite talks between Washington and Tehran last month in Baghdad on security issues.
“There absolutely is evidence of Iranian operatives holding weapons, training fighters, providing resources, helping plan operations, resourcing secret cells that is destabilizing Iraq,” said chief military spokesman Brigadier General Kevin Bergner.
“We would like very much to see some action on their part to reduce the level of effort and to help contribute to Iraq’s security. We have not seen it yet,” he told a news conference.
Tensions between the two old adversaries are particularly high after the United States seized five Iranians earlier this year in northern Iraq which it claimed were helping the insurgents.
Iran, which says the five are bona fide diplomats, is holding three U.S.-Iranian citizens on security-related charges.
U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker met with his Iranian counterpart last month in Baghdad to discuss U.S. concerns.
In particular, Washington blames Iranians for supplying a type of roadside bomb called an explosively formed penetrator which cuts through armor and has killed many U.S. soldiers.
Tehran said last week it would study a request from Baghdad for a second meeting, but warned a decision may take weeks.
Daniel Speckhard, the number two U.S. diplomat in Iraq, said there had still been no word back.
“We do not yet have another meeting scheduled for that dialogue with Iraq and Iran,” he told the briefing.
He said the first meeting produced general assurances that Tehran had a common interest in seeing a stable Iraq on its border, but these words had not been matched by deeds.
“What we’ve seen during the first meeting is, from our perspective, a sense...that their actions were out of line with their stated goals and objectives,” he said.
Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said his country backed the Iraqi government and accused the United States of seeking to undermine Tehran’s ties with Baghdad, the Iranian student news agency ISNA reported earlier.
Relations between the two countries are also being strained by Iran’s nuclear program, which it says is for peaceful purposes but the West claims is designed to yield nuclear bombs.